Karl Towns Jr., 17, had a full-time man’s job to do last summer, and did it.
The Kentucky commit again played for the Dominican National Team as it tried to qualify for the World Cup, a goal the team reached for coach Orlando Antigua, one of UK coach John Calipari’s assistants.
“Karl had a great summer. He got significant chances to improve his game,” said Karl Towns Sr. “He played with the Dominican team all summer. He bulked up. He’s 7-1, and got up to 248 pounds. He needed to just be stronger playing for a national team. Those are a lot of professional players he played with and against. He knew to improve the quality of his game, he should spend the summer with them.”
He saw limited action, but scored 16 points against Paraguay and was often on the floor at crucial times in other games. He averaged 21.3 points and 14.3 rebounds per game last season for Saint Joseph (N.J.) and chose Kentucky over a bevvy of other schools midway through the season. He played under John Calipari the previous summer, when the Dominican team won a bronze medal in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship in Argentina.
“There are a lot of benefits to getting yourself and your body ready for the physical beating you take at the next level,” Towns Sr. said. “He played well this summer. He did a nice job and I was very proud of him.”
His father rattled off a long list of NBA players like Tristan Thompson, J.J. Barea, Luis Scola, Francisco Garcia and more that his son played with and against.
“There were so many big-time players he went against. Holding his own against older men and even those NBA cats was a major accomplishment for him,” Towns Sr. said. “Here was a 17-year-old kid they trusted on the floor and were letting him playing quality minutes, and he was not intimidated or scared. He was rebounding in traffic, getting to the rim. He showed people that he can play. Some people wanted to know if he felt bad not playing more, but no. He wanted to prove he could play with the best and spend the summer improving, and he did.”
Towns Jr., who was featured in stories by Sports Illustrated and ESPN this summer, played well at the Nike Summit in April along with several current Kentucky freshmen. However, his father knows since he was out of the country during part of the summer and not at the major all-star camps, some buzz about his son has disappeared.
“He has proved to people what he can do, but if you don’t see him on the (camp) circuit, you forget,” Towns Sr. said. “But his main goal has been to make the Dominican Olympic team. He feels he can get more out of that to benefit him long term.”
Towns Jr. did get a taste of Kentucky basketball, though, thanks to having Antigua as his head coach.
“He loved Orlando. Always has. He coached him hard. Karl had to make the team. There were no favorites,” Towns Sr. said. “Coach got on him just like everybody else. I told my son he had to make it on his own and he made it.
“He treated it just like a job and he went to work on his job every day for seven or eight weeks. He performed like he was doing a job. He told me, ‘I’ve got to go to work.’ It was a great experience for him and in his mind, he proved things to a lot of people by the way he played.”
Towns Sr. said his son was “right back in the laboratory (basketball court) just two days after returning home about a week ago.
“After he took those two days off, he was right back in the lab. I have been with him. Five hundred made 3-pointers, post moves, free throws, lifting weights. We are in the gym a long time,” Towns Sr. said. “I rebound for him. Thank God most of his 3-pointers go in.
“He loves working out in the gym. He is happy to be back in school and he’s having a great time. He’s preparing his body for what’s next and looking forward to getting to Kentucky and joining a great team.”
Towns Sr. said they have not really worried about who else will be in Kentucky’s 2014 recruiting class. He said his son was “happy to get” point guard Tyler Ulis committed to Kentucky.
“I just thank God my son is going to Kentucky, and I know the people at Kentucky will get who is necessary to win the national championship,” Towns Sr. said. “He just wants people that win to win the national championship. I am thankful my son is being given a chance to play at Kentucky. We are just really looking forward to that and know Kentucky is the perfect place for him.”