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By LARRY VAUGHT
Karl Towns Jr. will be playing in the Nike Hoop Summit Saturday night in Portland and will be in front of many large crowds during his collegiate and professional careers if all goes as planned. He says Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured almost 200 won’t change how he lives, but it did touch him.
“It’s just one of those things that is so terrifying in America where we think we have the most safe country and yet something radical like this could happen,” Towns said. “It is very scary. But you never know what life holds. I live every day to the fullest and leave nothing on the table. Life is so short, you can never know when it will become shorter.
“My prayers and best wishes go out to the families of the injured and dead. It is one of those things that is so tragic, but it will make our country stronger. I play for the Dominicans, but I am still an American and my heart hurts for those families who had loved ones killed or hurt.”
Check out the NJ Gatorade Player of the Year’s 2012-13 junior season highlights as he lead St. Joseph-Metuchen to a back-to-back NJSIAA Non-Public A state title. In early December, Karl committed to Kentucky and announced he will reclassify to the class of 2014 which would make him a senior next season. Towns, known as a 3 point specialist, proved he has all-around game this season by handling the ball, attacking the rim and dishing it out to his teammates. The 17 year old 7’1″ center averaged 20.6 points, 14.0 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game all while maintaining a 4.2 GPA. In case you missed it, he recorded a quadruple double this year and broke a rim the same game. If you haven’t checked out his freshman year mixtape or the quadruple double, be sure to click the annotations at the end of the video.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Since he’s been an AAU basketball coach for 18 years, Karl Towns Sr. had little choice but to often taken his son, Karl Jr., with him to basketball practices.
“He started playing basketball when he was 2 years old and would come to the gym with me,” said Towns Sr. “My wife was working, so it would be up to me to get him ready and keep him busy. He would jump right in and play with my AAU guys. He got to play with guys like Dexter Strickland, Kasim Drummond, DeSean Butler, all NBA guys. He really started liking it and enjoying it and wanting to work even harder.
“When he was 10 or 11, he started getting bigger. That’s when I knew he would be good. His feet were big. Now he is almost 7-1 and wears a size 20 shoe.”
The New Jersey standout and has become one of the nation’s best prep players and has already verbally committed to Kentucky. He also reclassified to the 2014 recruiting class when he did that.
“I have to fight to keep him out of the gym. He wants to be in there every day, but I guess that is a good thing,” Towns Sr. said. “We go six days a week. His only day off is Sunday. He’ll practice two to three hours a day and has been practicing like that since he was in second grade. I was always in the gym, so he was always there. When he got to middle school, he was taking 500 jump shots a day.”
The UK commit’s father was a prolific rebounder during his college career at Monmouth University. He led the nation in rebounding one year and was third his other season after spending his first two years at a junior college.
“I didn’t have all those luxuries of playing against great players my whole life. I had to play with kids in the park, but he’s only played with the best players, so he’s only had the best teaching. That’s why his game is so much above most kids his age,” Towns’ father said.
Karl Towns Jr. has ballhandling and shooting skills to play on the perimeter as well as size and skills to play inside. He was on the Dominican national team coached by UK coach John Calipari last summer and played with and against NBA stars.
“He basically was living the life of a NBA player. He went on trips with a guy like Al Horford. He was boxing out Kevin Durant. What kid in the country had the chance to experience what he did at his age? There’s never been another high school kid make the Olympic team and then he was in Las Vegas (for an exhibition game) hitting a 3 over Carmelo Anthony. Come on, that’s unreal,” Towns Sr. said.
“He wants to be at the highest level. He knows his game has to be more polished, more physical at the next level. His mindset is he wants to get to college and move on. He is working on stuff to use at a higher level. I want him to improve his dribbling, shooting, strength, agility. At this point, Karl has to get his body ready for a higher level.”
Even during his junior season, Towns Jr. is working out twice a week to increase his weight and strength in addition to playing games and practicing with his New Jersey team.
“His regimen is crazy,” Towns Sr. said. “He still lifts, run and does speed and agility work while he’s going to basketball practice. He just wants to do what it takes to please the coaches at Kentucky. His workout ethic is incredible. He’s just trying to be the best player and student he can be.”
Despite his athletic prowess, he’s also an honor rolls student. His father is a school teacher and his mother works at a university.
“We’ve always been serious about grades. Without good grades, there’s nowhere to go,” Towns’ father said. “He knows if he gets anything under a 4.0 GPA, in our minds we are going to shut him down. God willing and if everything goes right and he plays at the next level, we will want him to have a career after basketball. He’s been a great student. That’s why he can be on track to graduate a year early.”
Towns Sr. said his son is also “kind hearted” and recently put on a note on his shoes remembering those killed in the recent school shooting in nearby Connecticut. Another time he told the parents of a sargeant killed in Afghanistan he would score one point for every year of their son’s life.
“He went out that night and got 25 points, one point for every year of that young man’s life,” Towns Sr. said. “He’s humble and grounded. It’s not about him. He just enjoys being himself and that’s why people like him. He’s just a good kid. Talk to any coach in the country and they’ll tell you he’s a nice kid. Sometimes it’s hard to believe this kid really is still only in high school.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Just in case the nation’s top sophomore was debating whether he was ready to verbally commit to Kentucky in less than two weeks, the Wildcats showcased a lot of reasons for Karl Towns Jr. of New Jersey to join them during a 104-75 victory over Long Island-Brooklyn here Friday.
The 6-11 Towns was seen wearing a Kentucky hat and T-shirt as his Dec. 4 announcement looms and he got to see plenty of offense from coach John Calipari’s team. This was UK’s second time to score 100 or more points — and remember that last year’s national championship team only got to 100 points twice in 40 games.
However, the Cats still need work on defense — Long Island led 43-40 late in the first half before UK went on a 15- run — and should not be compared to last year’s team on that end of the court. But the offense seemed to start clicking especially well late in the first half and the defense did get better the second half when the Cats opened with a smaller lineup.
“This is who we are and I like my team,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari as he listed the pros and cons he saw in the victory. “We have got to be a defensive team that rebounds like crazy and gets out and runs. Early misses or makes, they (Long Island players) were flying up the court. That’s what we want to do. We are trying to get these guys to go. When you are not playing as many guys and guys are playing 30 minutes or more, it’s hard to play a total game of running.
“We are still just learning. That’s why we watned to play these kind of teams (Morehead and Long Island) that would come after us and not be afraid. The way we have been starting games, we are letting people think they can beat us. We are learning that. Am I starting the right people? We are going to get in games in our league where we will be down 25 at halftime if we start like this. We know we have to get more physical, sprint the floor.”
Kentucky does. But the Cats still have 28 assists and just 10 turnovers — “That’s a big number,” said Calipari — and also scored 60 points in the paint against a smaller opponent.
Kentucky had plenty of players put up big numbers.
— Freshman Archie Goodwin continues to master the art of playing point guard with Ryan Harrow still absent for medical/personal reasons. He flirted with a rare triple-double — Calipari said he has know idea and would have been worried it might have been a quadruple double with 10 turnovers even though Goodwin had just three in 36 minutes — before finishing with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 at the foul line, nine rebounds and eight assists. He also had one block and two steals.
“Archie was great. We don’t necessarily have that guy that Morehead had to go after them,” LIU-Brooklyn coach Jack Perri said. “He did a good job running the show. He gets to the rim going to his left and right. He is a talented kid. He is a big-time player.”
— Freshman Alex Poythress became the first UK freshman since Dwight Anderson in 1979 to have four straight 20-point games. He had 22 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. He also got his first assist of the season. Calipari still was not pleased with his overall effort, though.
“I am still screaming at Alex. I am trying to get him to understand if we want to be what we think we should be or what everybody else thinks we should be, we cannot give up on possessions,” Calipari said.
Poythress knows and was also a bit humbled to learn how long it had been since a UK freshman had scored 20 or more points in four straight games.
“If that’s right, that’s quite an honor. I had no idea,” he said.
— Center Nerlens Noel continued to fill the stat sheet and show he could do more than just block shots. He finished with 18 points — he was 9-for-11 from the field just like Poythress — and also had eight rebounds, five assists and five blocks in 30 minutes. Freshman teammate Willie Cauley-Stein got more playing time — 25 minutes — and responded with 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. He also drew praise for his defense on Jamal Olasewere, LIU-Brooklyn’s leading scorer and rebounder who finished with 22 points and two boards.
“They got 60 points in the paint. They obviously did a great job of focusing on doing that. We talked about crowding the post and did not do a great job. We were late, but don’t know if it would have mattered. They all shot a ridiculous percentage (Uk was 42-for-62 from the field for 67.7 percent),” Perri said.
— Junior Jarrod Polson once again came off the bench to give UK a spark with his hustle, heads-up play. He had five points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in 19 minutes and Calipari says even if Harrow comes back this weekend as expected, he’ll have to fight his way past Polson for playing time.
“He knows what is expected. In pick and roll right now, I kept telling him he keeps looking at the screen because he does not want to get hit,” Calipari said. “But when you are talking about him offensively, he has played against some of the best players in college basketball the last few years and done well (in practice). He makes the 3. I am confident in him at the free throw line. He is also scrappy. With 50-50 balls, he comes up as well as anybody on our team.”
Kentucky doesn’t play again until Thursday when it faces its first true road test at Notre Dame, a game Poythress knows will help answer more questions about this team.
“We are excited. We want to see what the fans will be like. We want to see how we do. Every game we learn something,” Poythress said.
And the more UK learns, the better it will be.