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Karl-Anthony Towns

Sport: Basketball

Born: November 15, 1995

Town: Piscataway

Karl-Anthony Towns Jr. was born November 15, 1995 in Piscataway. His father, Karl-Anthony, starred for Monmouth University in the 1980s and coached AAU hoops teams and the varsity squad at Piscataway Technical High. Karl-Anthony was good enough to practice with the JV by 5th grade.

He attended grade school at Our Lady of Fatima and then transferred to T. Schor Middle School, where he repeated 7th grade. This is not unusual for basketball prodigies, as it gives them an additional year of development. At this point, Karl-Anthony stood 6’10” and was dominating AAU tournaments in his age group.

Karl-Anthony was offered a scholarship to play for the prestigious Pennington School but chose to stay closer to home and enrolled at St. Joseph’s prep school in Metuchen. He led the Falcons to a state championship in his freshman year. St. Joe’s repeated as state champs in 2013 and 2014. Karl-Anthony was named 2014 Gatorade National Player of the Year.

Karl-Anthony also played for Dominican Republic’s U-17 team since his mom, Jacqueline Cruz, was born in that country. Kentucky coach John Calipari coached the team. The Dominicans fell one victory short of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.

Karl-Anthony modeled his game after Kevin Durant. He liked to run the floor, shoot from the outside and drive the lane. There was some concern that he wasn’t developing his low-post KATowns2015SIgame, but by the time he entered college, he had greatly improved this aspect of his game. Among the colleges recruiting Karl-Anthony were Duke, Michigan State, Baylor, West Virginia, Kentucky and, of course, Rutgers across the Raritan River. He decided to go with Kentucky, knowing he would likely stay only a year before entering the NBA Draft.

As part of Calipari’s deep rotation, Karl-Anthony played 20 to 25 minutes a game in 2014–15, and averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. He and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Willie Cauley-Stein both earned All-America honors as the Wildcats rolled into the NCAA Tournament as prohibitive favorites with a 34–0 record. Their season ended prematurely when they blew a fourth-quarter lead against Wisconsin and lost 71–64. Karl-Anthony led Kentucky in scoring in 3 of the 5 tournament games, including 25 in the Midwest Regional Final against Notre Dame.

Karl-Anthony declared for the NBA Draft and was selected with the #1 overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves, perhaps suspecting they would land Karl-Anthony or Duke center Jahlil Okafor, had acquired Kevin Garnett from the Nets the previous winter. Garnett was the perfect tutor for Karl-Anthony. In his first NBA game, the rookie scored 14 points and hauled down 12 rebounds to make the difference in a 112–111 road win over the Lakers. \

Karl-Anthony showed almost immediately that he was ready to play in the NBA. He topped 25 points several times in the first half and in January against the Jazz he scored 32 points and had 12 rebounds—becoming the youngest player in 9 years to have a 30–10 game. In February, Karl-Anthony defeated Isaiah Thomas of he Celtics in the All-Star Skills Challenge, becoming the youngest and tallest player to do so. By season’s end, he had obliterated Christian Laettner’s franchise scoring record for rookies.

Karl-Anthony’s final numbers were 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in 82 games. He shot 54.2 percent fro the field and 81.1 percent from the line. Karl-Anthony was named Conference Rookie of the Month in all six months and was a unanimous pick for NBA Rookie of the Year. Teammate Andrew Wiggins had won the award the year before, making Minnesota the first team since the Buffalo Braves (Bob McAdoo and Ernie DiGregorio) in the 1970s.

Karl-Anthony blossomed into a major offensive force in his second season. He torched the Knicks in a November game for 47 points and 18 rebounds. In December he recorded his first career triple-double, with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. In both cases, however, Minnesota lost close games. This was the problem—the T-Wolves were not even a .500 tea and though Karl-Anthony’s game was evolving, the team was not.

The Timberwolves finished the season 31–51. Karl-Anthony’s second-year numbers were huge: he averaged over 25 points and 12 boards per game. He notched his 100th career double-double in March, becoming the second-youngest player in history to do so. He broke Kevin Love’s team record for points in a season and completed a historic campaign as the first NBA player with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 100 three-pointers.

In 2017–18, the T-Wolves added veterans Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague to the roster. These were literally game-changing acquisitions, as Minnesota took a huge step toward playoff contention. Butler, a legendary workhorse, a Teague, a superb playmaker, enabled Karl-Anthony and Andrew Wiggins to develop their games without shouldering the entire responsibility for winning and losing each night.

 

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