Born: November 15, 1995
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 game, 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. Minnesota followed that with another road victory, over the Nuggets. Karl-Anthony upped his numbers to 28 poins and 14 rebounds in that game.