Run This Town
A 15-year-old phenom well ahead of his age.
by Cub Buenning
Teenage kids are a tricky group to try and figure out. Some grow vertically quicker than others. Some grow as people quicker than the rest. Many don’t have a clue about what it takes to “make it in this world,” and only a select few appear to have even a few things figured out.
In the world of basketball, we have seen thousands of prodigies whose on-court brilliance was unfortunately sullied by a general cluelessness away from the hardwood. But on those rare occasions, where good genes and good parenting produce something special, it is hard not to notice. While it is still very early in the storyline of one Karl Towns Jr of Piscataway, New Jersey, it’s seems natural to expect a long and entertaining narrative.
At just 15 years old, the youngster stands out. At a legitimate 6-10, he stands out in the team photo. As a nimble and active scorer around the hoop, he stands out. When he drifts out WAY beyond the three-point line (the NBA one) to drain jumper after jumper, he stands out. But, ask him to describe his own game and you will find out what stands out most.
“I am a team-oriented player, first. I only run through the offense and I don’t try to step on anybody’s toes and be a ball hog,” the teenager mentioned not once comparing himself to an NBA star. “I am a team player and I do what I have to do to help my team get the W. I am more of a versatile player and try to do it on each end.”
At first glance, Junior’s dizzying array of skills on the court is enough to make high schools and colleges giggle while simultaneously drooling. Towns may be one of the nation’s most complete junior prospects to come along in some time. When he plays with the Under-17 teams, he does a lot of the ball-handling and perimeter scoring and when he is facing his own age group, he does serious damage on the block.
“I see him as the typical complete player,” mentioned his father, Karl Towns Sr., who coaches his Team New Jersey ABC squad and is also the varsity coach at Piscataway High School. “Karl is skilled on the outside with the ability to go inside.”
Towns Jr is the physical superior in every athletic endeavor (he is also a talented baseball player with possibly a brighter future on the diamond) but what may separate him from his future contemporaries is what is between his ears. Not only does Towns speak in mature tones and perspective, but he seems to be independent of thought and motivation.
Granted, his parents have influenced Junior’s values and morals. When inquired further, those valued principals extend to even the current day players that are being emulated on playgrounds and gymnasiums across the country.
“Currently, Kevin Durant is my favorite player. I like his whole game,” mentioned Towns Jr. “The way he takes care of himself and represents himself, it’s all good. And I just respect him as a player.”
With the already established talent and an expected growth beyond 7-feet, high schools are focusing the efforts toward aligning themselves with Towns. Towns was named MVP of the 17-U AAU nationals this past weekend. This summer, Towns was invited to try out for the Dominican Republic National U-17 team (his mother’s family is from the DR) and in the process, he became not only the youngest player to be named to the roster, but one of the team’s first selections. With the next couple months spent between Lexington Kentucky and the DR, Towns Jr has a lot of family experiences ahead.
“My wife has always wanted her family to see Karl play and with them all in the Dominican, they will finally all get to see him play,” said Karl Sr. “It is really big for her, because it was what she always wanted.”
Being associated with a coach like Kentucky’s John Calipari (who has taken over the duties of the country’s national program) is sure to have its benefits, but it may just jump-start the “Towns to Lexington” rumors a bit prematurely.
In the meantime, however, it’s still just one foot in front of the other; the kid hasn’t even enrolled for his first day of his freshman year of high school. With several top-flight schools and programs within just a few minutes of his Piscataway home, no doors were being closed at this point last week.
Basically, it came down to Immaculata, St. Joseph’s and Academy of the New Church and while Towns looked at the big schools like St. Anthony’s, St. Benedict’s and Mount Vernon (NY) the big problem was the commutes and his mother’s desire to keep him closer to home. After much debate, Towns decided in the last few days to join the student body at St. Joe’s this fall.
There are still a few more weeks until that first bell opens the school year, which means Towns should be in full “summer mode,” right? But, with a schedule that still includes trips to Puerto Rico and Spain, Towns isn’t going to have a normal teenage summer. But, don’t fret that the hustle and bustle will wear him down or sour him to the game. Remember, this is not a normal kid. Or is he?
“I really want to finish high school and leave the legacy that this kid came and he was such a good kid, he represented the school so well and he was just one of the most fun people to be around. Not so strict, not so serious, but fun.”