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.
Marques Townes, former teammate of Karl-Anthony Towns and Wade Baldwin, making his own history at Final Four
By ADAM ZAGORIASAN ANTONIO — Karl-Anthony Towns had a special request for his old friend and teammate Marques Townes.
Towns FaceTimed Townes after Loyola-Chicago’s Elite Eight victory over Kansas State last weekend and asked him for an extra jersey to wear.
“He said that he wanted to wear my jersey and I’m like, ‘How am I supposed to get that to you?'” Townes, an Edison, N.J., native, said here Friday at the Final Four ahead of Saturday’s national semifinal with Michigan. “‘I don’t know how to get that to happen.'”
Townes even asked the folks at Loyola-Chicago to get a jersey for Towns, who went off for a Minnesota Timberwolves record 56 points on Wednesday against Atlanta.
“I tried to tell the people at our school, ‘Get him a jersey as best as you can,'” Townes added. “‘Just make one and send it to him.'”
The two players — along with Wade Baldwin of the Portland Trail Blazers — combined to lead St. Joe’s-Metuchen High School to the prestigious New Jersey Tournament of Champions title in 2014.
Townes remains in close touch with his NBA friends, and said he speaks almost daily with Baldwin, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Thursday.
“I talk to Wade almost every day; he’s one of my closest friends,” Townes said. “He knows where I’ve come from. We’ve hung out all the time. He’s real happy for me as well.”
Unlike Baldwin (Vanderbilt) and Towns (Kentucky), the 6-foot-4 Townes wasn’t recruited at the highest levels coming out of St. Joe’s, also the alma mater of former Duke star and current ESPN analyst Jay Williams.
In April, 2014, Townes initially committed to Fairleigh Dickinson over St Peter’s, South Alabama, Hartford and Charleston Southern. FDU assistant Bruce Hamburger speculated that it may have hurt Townes’ recruitment somewhat that he was also considering playing football in college.
“At one point he was talking about being a football player and then he kind of backed off that,” Hamburger said. “I think the football talk in the summer caused a lot of people to back off. And then we just kind of hung in with him and stayed around and were fortunate to get him.”
After two years at FDU, Townes opted to transfer. That’s when Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser saw Townes’ name on a transfer list and started doing his research.
“The more you dug on Marques, the more people that know Marques, he’s a winner,” Moser said here Friday. “He’s tough, he won three state championships.
“The more we dug, this is like, ‘This is the kind of profile kid we’re looking for.’ We developed a relationship and it led to an official visit.”
On the official, Townes was in Moser’s basement hanging around with the Loyola-Chicago players when Moser put his arm around Townes and said, “Marques, it’s like you’re already on the team.”
“When I finally got up there, it was just like a family up there,” Townes said. “I felt at home when I was up there. When I got there, I knew this was the team I wanted to be on.”
Still, he had to sit out last season per transfer rules.
“Last year I had to sit out with the red-shirt year and I tried to push these guys as much as I could during practice,” he said. “I was working my tail off during workouts and trying to get myself better for this year.”
Townes is now Loyola’s third-leading scorer at 11.2 points per game along with 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He went for 18 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in the 69-68 Sweet 16 win over Nevada, including the clutch three-pointer with 6.3 seconds remaining that iced the victory.
In between his own NBA games, Baldwin has watched his friend’s games and loves the tempo at which they play.
“I’ve watched them play 20 times this season. I haven’t seen a single team set the tempo against them,” Baldwin told Steve Politi of NJ.com. “They play their style no matter who they’re facing. That’s not going to change now.”
Now the Ramblers, inspired by international icon Sister Jean — whose press conference here Friday dwarfed that of Townes and the other players — are two victories from the school’s first NCAA championship since 1963.
“This is a special moment for me and the team and the coaching staff,” Townes said. “This is an amazing time. We’ve been the underdogs the whole tournament and no one thought that we could be here but we knew from the start what our goals were, so as long as we keep doing what we do and keep playing our game and don’t change anything and keep our practices normal and our film normal, we’ll have a good chance of winning.”
And if they do, maybe Karl-Anthony Towns will finally get his Marques Townes jersey.
Photo: USA Today
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.