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By LARRY VAUGHT
Karl Towns Jr. played for the Dominican Republic national team for the second straight summer and called it a “blessing” to be part of that team.
“Playing for the national team is such a great experience,” Towns said. “You don’t play for yourself, you play for your country. You are playing for a lot more than yourself. Everything changes. Your philosophy changes. It means a lot to put on the jersey and represent your country.
“Then you learn so much from older players, guys who are in the NBA. You learn the tricks of the trade and things you never thought about. It just raises the IQ level of your game and gives you so much experience.”
He has no doubt playing for the national team helps prepare him for his future career at UK.
“When I go to Kentucky, I will play for everybody. Not just myself, but the fans who also want to win a national title and have us win every game possible,” Towns said. “I will go out every night and look for wins for Kentucky, and so will my teammates. Wins will be all that matters.”
John Calipari coached the Dominican team in 2012 while UK assistant Orlando Antigua was the coach this summer. Towns said there were a lot of “similarities”between the two coaches.
“For me, the biggest difference from last year to this year was my body had changed a lot. My mentality was just to do my job, compete and produce,” Towns said. “I got good, quality minutes. But playing for them both was great for me. I know coach Cal is my head coach at Kentucky. I feel I have the system down and think it is going to be great for me at Kentucky.”
Towns makes 500 3-pointers daily in individual workouts, but he emphasizes he’s a post player, not a perimeter player.
“I have been working so hard on my post moves that I feel very comfortable in the post or shooting a 3,” he said. “I shot one 3 the whole tournament (with the Dominican team) and that was with one second left (in the game). I like staying in the post. I was very efficient there and my numbers were good. I feel so comfortable on the post and know I can do more damage and be more efficient for my team on the post.”
Towns says his father taught him early to become versatile on the basketball court, one reason his shooting and ballhandling skills on the perimeter are so good for a seven-footer.
“I always try to be the most versatile player on the court,” Towns said. “I have a competitive attitude and always want to be the best at everything I do. I don’t want anybody to be better than me. I look at things to do better than anybody else. I go into the game and want to be the best and most versatile player daily and want to do what I can to be ready to help Kentucky win a national title next season.”
Towns’ father says much of what his son does comes “naturally” but he refined his skills through extra work.
“At a young age, dad needed to say, ‘Let’s go.’ Now he has a regiment set up. He goes to lift weights for an hour and a half, then goes to the lab (gym) for two hours, gets up shots, does post moves,” Karl Towns Sr. said. “I think playing for the Dominican team and being around the game at the highest level has given him the mindset to know what he needs to do to improve.
“I am so proud of him. We are best friends. We do everything together. Our father-son bond is strong. When we are in the gym, we are just like any father-son. We argue. We fight. He wants to do it one way, I want it another way. But once we put in our work, it’s all love and respect. In the gym it’s business, and he loves his time in the gym. I’ve always told him his work and sacrifice would pay dividends, and it has.”
Now the New Jersey senior is ready to hopefully lead his team to another high school state championship.
“I am doing everything I can working out that will help me down the road at Kentucky. But what I am doing right now will also help my team this year,” Towns said. “I can’t wait for the season to come around. We’ve had so much success and I want to keep that going or maybe even have more than we have the last two years.”
Towns sounded like he might back off his plan to play baseball — he’s a first baseman/pitcher — after basketball ends.
“I did get in the batting cages overseas,” Towns said. “Right now I have to worry about basketball season. After that I may need to be training for Kentucky, or I may play baseball.”
If he doesn’t play baseball, that could give him more time to play golf. He regularly drives the ball 325 yards or more and recalled hitting a tee shot on a par-four recently to within three feet of the cup.
“I play like Tiger (Woods). It’s all or nothing,” Towns said.