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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.”