Not-So-Overnight Sensation

by December 03, 2012

by Rodger Bohn@rodgerbohn

For Karl Towns, D-Day is tomorrow. He is announcing his collegiate decision live on television and his imminent choice of where he will potentially spend his life from 2015 through 2019 has drawn just as much speculation as any announcement in recent memory. Duke, Kentucky, Florida, Seton Hall, Villanova, Rutgers, North Carolina and North Carolina State all remain in the running. While he’s yet to eliminate anyone just yet, most feel that it’s going to be a matter of him playing for Cal, K or Donovan. Academics are incredibly important for the student who rocks a 4.3 GPA, but so is finding the atmosphere that’s going to maximize his potential on and off the court.

“The biggest thing for me is that I get better,” he says. “I just want to go anywhere that’s going to get me better as a person, as a player, and as a human being.”

Not to be confused with one of these guys who have been YouTube sensations since middle school, the progress has been a gradual improvement. His father, Karl Towns Sr, is a varsity basketball coach and serves as his main on court trainer to this day. Don’t confuse the elder Towns with one of today’s ever so growing group of overbearing parents in the basketball industry because his own son doesn’t even play for him in high school. The fam opted to send Karl Jr. to a better academic situation at St. Joseph’s in Metuchen (the school that produced Jay Williams and Andrew Bynum) rather than send him to play for his Pops at Piscataway Tech. Towns Sr made a similar decision when he took a step back and let the guys at East Coast Conditioning handle his son’s training.

Located in Edison, New Jersey, East Coast Conditioning serves as a training hub for players of all sports. With an impressive weight room, hardwood court (a rarity in most training facilities due to the cost), and indoor track/football field, there isn’t much that one could ask for if looking to improve their speed and strength. Owner Bryan Healy has entrusted himself in Armando Sanchez to take care of the speed and Andrew Silber to take care of the strength. It was here that we saw the work that Karl Towns puts in each day to hold down his spot as #1 player in the country.

When he wasn’t flying all around the world trying to make the Olympics with the Dominican Republic national team, Towns was at East Coast. He skipped the AAU and camp circuit this summer and opted to just grind it out anytime that he was home. We got a chance to watch one of these grind sessions, which started off with Sanchez’ track workout.

Starting off with a series of stretches to get loose, it was immediately evident that this near 7-footer had some pretty crazy flexibility. Some of the stretches that he was doing hurt me just watching them. Sanchez, who has trained countless players for the NFL Draft, focused on the bodies of work that would directly translate to the hardwood. He had no problems putting things in layman’s terms for those of use who weren’t quite as savvy in the kinesiology field so that we were able to understand why each exercise was being performed. It was here that we could see the potential that Towns has running the floor. He performed various exercises chained with weights, practiced his form running (both upper and lower body), and displayed incredibly long strides when he got mid-sprint. Any basketball coach looking at Towns would be drooling over him as a high-major prospect without even seeing him pick up the rock—something we weren’t going to see on the track. You see, Sanchez is a huge believer in separating church and state when it comes to performing basketball exercises on the track.

“If you’re on a basketball court, concentrate on basketball,” Sanchez told SLAM with a clearly adamant belief in keeping the two apart. “You can shoot jumpers all day, but that’s not going to shrink the court. This will.”

From the track workout, we made the transition to the weight room. It was clear that Karl had been doing some work here based on the fact that the baby fat that he sported as a freshman seemed to have turned into toned muscle. Now of  course there are going to be challenges in the weight room when working with a player with the stature of the St. Joe’s sophomore because after all, most machines aren’t made for guys approaching 7-foot. Still, Andrew Silber was able to improvise and give us a glimpse of the lower body strength that his pupil possesses.

Silber put towns through a series of exercises that not only increased the strength of his legs, but also his core and back. He focused with having Karl do low reps with higher weights to develop that explosiveness that he will use on the court. All of the squats, kettlebell work, and lower back exercises have had results. The power forward went from throwing down finger-tip dunks to now banging out between the legs dunks, all while getting off the floor faster than ever.

“His ability to piece the two worlds of speed and strength together is what we look for in every athlete,” Silber explained about his inquisitive trainee. “He’s adamant about fixing every little thing every time he’s in the gym. He’s the best person to look at for someone who will not leave the gym until he feels like he’s gotten better that particular.”

The final piece of our time with Towns was a light shooting workout with his father. A well put together 6-6-ish man, Towns Sr kept his son motivated throughout the 45-minute session. It was simply a thing of beauty watching Karl effortlessly fire up three pointer after three pointer with quick release and little wasted motion. He showed no problem stepping out beyond the NBA three point line either, leading scouts to dream of his potential as a trailing big man or pick and pop guy. Just as impressive as the workout itself was the relationship that father and son had. To be honest, this didn’t even seem like a workout; it merely seemed like a father and son out in the backyard or your local playground bonding over a basketball.

Wherever Karl Towns announces that he will be headed tomorrow, that school will be getting a player who brings more than his skills on the court. He’s a proven leader (class president and captain of the team as a sophomore), is well rounded (can drive a golf ball 300 yards and has taught himself to play the piano) and has an infectious work ethic. With the profile of a modern day renaissance man, Towns wants to be known for more than just his talents on the court.

“The one thing that I think people really don’t know about me is that I do really well in the classroom and am just a regular kid,” he said with a blend of maturity and innocence. “The biggest thing about me is that I truly put both aspects of the world together: My basketball and my education.”

Video courtesy of CityLeagueHoops