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.
Pro Ultimate Leagues Would Line Up to Take Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns
NEW YORK — If the New York Knicks don’t end up drafting Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns next month, the city’s two professional Ultimate franchises would take the 7-footer in a heartbeat.
The projected No. 1 pick in the June 25 NBA Draft, Towns played Ultimate at St. Joe’s-Metuchen High School and informally with his Kentucky teammates, who won their first 38 games this past season before falling to Wisconsin in the national semifinals. Ironically, the Wisconsin players also train in the offseason by playing Ultimate, a combination of basketball, football and soccer that requires speed, agility, field sense and the ability to throw the disc in a variety of ways.
“I just think it’s really cool,” Towns said at a recent appearance at his high school. “I mean, it’s very fun. It was very different. That’s the thing I love. I love trying all sports out. I spent some time trying lacrosse out, that didn’t work very well, I’m not very good at it. I pitched, I played baseball, I played tennis with my sister. I just have an intriguing aspect in myself. I get intrigued by any sport and I want to try it out so Ultimate Frisbee was a huge thing here at St. Joe’s, especially with leagues created for it. So I joined the league, had a lot of fun playing it and enjoyed it a lot, especially when you have the height I have it was easy to catch.”
Jan 20, 2015; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Karl-Anthony Towns (12) shoots the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Rupp Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
I’ve been playing Ultimate for close to 30 years and I’ve never played with a 7-footer. The closest is my friend Steve Leshinski, who is 6-10 and is the only male player I know to have competed in the NCAA Tournament (for Bucknell) and USA Ultimate Nationals (for a Philadelphia-based Masters’ team.)
That said, a 7-foot target in the end zone sure would be appealing to any thrower.
“[I’m] more a deep guy,” Towns said. “Deep guy, you throw it up and I’m going to go get it.”
Delrico Johnson of the DC Current of Major League Ultimate made No. 1 on the SportsCenter Top 10 on Tuesday morning with the above leaping catch against the New York Rumble.
“As a league we would love to have a player of Towns’ obvious athletic ability and size,” Nic Darling, Executive Vice President of MLU, told SNY.tv. “He strikes me as the kind of athlete that could quickly adapt to another sport and make a difference on the field. Clearly he would be a phenomenal addition to any team’s deep game with his ability to go up and get the disc, and you don’t get where he is today without the kind of natural talent and work ethic it takes to learn the technical aspects of the game, the throws, defensive positioning and cutting techniques.
“Ultimate is still working toward determining its ideal athlete size and body type. The combination of speed, quickness, endurance and durability required are slightly different from other sports, but basketball certainly has a lot of similar requirements. Either way, regardless of the ideal body type, you really can’t go wrong with a quick, strong seven footer.
“I have a contract waiting if he’s growing bored of basketball.”
The average salary in the MLU is $25 per game, but Darling joked that Towns might earn $50 per game, whereas Towns stands to make $4.75 million if he’s the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
The MLU isn’t the only pro Ultimate league that would take Towns, either. The American Ultimate Disc League would also love to have a similar athlete who happens to be 7-feet.
“I’d love to have him on [New York] Empire,” Tom Gibbons, the team’s coach, told SNY.tv. “I don’t think any player in the league could compete with his height or athleticism. Plus, he’s got great field sense. He cuts to the basket extremely well from everywhere, and that would translate 100 percent to red zone success in Ultimate. I imagine he’d be a top-3 receiver in the AUDL with just a few weeks of practice with limitless potential beyond that.”
Towns is skipping this week’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago because he doesn’t need to prove anything else leading up to the Draft Lottery on May 19 and the NBA Draft on June 25.
So technically, Towns would be free to play pro Ultimate somewhere this weekend.
“I think I’ll just stick to basketball,” Towns said. “It’s worked out pretty for me so far, other than the Wisconsin game, so yeah, just basketball.”
(John Pavia contributed reporting.)
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.