Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
16-Year-Old Towns Could Play for Calipari in Olympics
PENNINGTON, N.J. — Karl Towns is a 16-year-old basketball prodigy who could play for John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team in this summer’s London Olympics.
A 6-foot-11 rising sophomore at St. Joe’s High School in Metuchen, N.J., Towns, whose mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, is Dominican, trained with the Dominican Senior National Team last year and has been invited to do so again this year.
“The Olympic team, yeah,” Towns told SNY.tv Saturday at the Mary Kline Classic. “They asked me to come over. They want me to play. I’m just going to go down to Kentucky and practice with them. I know [the training] is soon.”
Calipari and the Dominican Republic must still qualify for the Olympics when they play Korea and Russia in pool play of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament July 2-8 in Caracas, Venezuela.
Calipari is already arguably the top college recruiter in the land, yet this situation is unique in that it gives the Kentucky coach a specific recruiting edge for Towns, one of the top 2015 prospects in the country.
Towns trained at Kentucky last year and will train there again this year.
Now, Calipari could potentially directly coach Towns on the Dominican Team.
That would be the equivalent of Team USA and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski putting a top uncommitted high school prospect like Julius Randle or Jabari Parker on the U.S. Olympic team and coaching them in London.
“If Cal knows what he’s doing, he’s going to hold a spot for [Towns]” on the Dominican team, a source with knowledge of the situation told SNY.tv.
“As good as the kid is, it’s far more difficult for a 15-year-old 7-footer to make a contribution than a 15-year-old point guard. Listen, I’m sure they’re selling him that he’s going to make the team. If I were in Calipari’s shoes, I’d tell him, ‘Listen, man. We’ve got a spot for you on the men’s team.'”
Towns actually trained Saturday in New York with the Dominican U19 team, but he is really serving as more of an advisor to that team, which is coached by Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua.
“It was mostly just to see how new players will fit in our group and I was just there to help him make sure everything went well and tell him my feelings of how players were and stuff, and show my face for the President of the Dominican Republic and always tell him I’m always behind him,” Towns said.
Still, the ultimate goal is to play for the Senior National Team.
“Let’s be realistic,” Karl Towns Sr. said. “As a father, I want to see my kid play on the Senior Team. It all depends on what they’re looking for. They don’t have a lot of height and with Karl with the height and the ability to rebound and shoot, it’s intriguing to them.”
Dominican big man Al Horford has missed most of the season recovering from surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle, and hopes to return with the Atlanta Hawks against the Boston Celtics in their playoff series. Horford’s status for the Olympics is unclear.
As for Towns, he has a long list of major Division I schools after him. Towns Sr. listed North Carolina, Michigan, Rutgers, Baylor, Syracuse and Villanova as just some of the schools involved.
“As you know, Kentucky’s always the top,” Towns Sr. said.
None of the aforementioned schools –except Kentucky — will host Towns this summer for Olympic training.
And only one school’s coach can potentially coach Towns this summer in London.
“You know,” Towns said, “Kentucky’s a great school. I already took a nice visit down there. I think the school is just amazing. It’s just seeing how the future unfolds for me.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.