By Anthony Colucci
St. Joseph High School (Metuchen), ‘16
Before he was in the spotlight of sold-out gyms in front of college scouts and eager fans, St. Joseph High School (N.J.) senior center Karl Towns Jr. was playing with his father, Karl Towns Sr., at Day Park, a court in his hometown of Piscataway, N.J. It was in those long days at the park where “Little Karl,” as his family calls him, became the player he is today.
“It’s been a tremendous journey seeing how he has progressed since we started practicing when he was four,” his father said, who is also known as “Big Karl” in the Towns family. “He has turned out to be just the kind of player I always thought he would be. All the things he has done over the years have finally shown and look where we are today.”
Those practice sessions at the park usually included an hour of shooting and an hour of dribbling. The older Karl challenged his son early on by playing defense and contesting shots, which may have been to Towns’ advantage since more than just height runs in the family. Karl Sr. was one of the nation’s best rebounders in the ‘80s while at Monmouth University and served as a successful head coach of Piscataway Tech for 19 years.
Because of his father guarding him starting at a young age, Towns has developed into one of the craftiest post players in the country, not to mention a fierce competitor.
“My dad has given me the power and motivation to make sure I work hard everyday,” Towns said after winning his third state championship. “Playing against my dad helped me learn that every time you step in the gym, there is another person with you and you just have to work harder.”
Towns also picked up a few tips from his father that the future Kentucky Wildcat still uses.
“I’ve showed him things that I used to do to tip rebounds to myself or to position myself better without fouling,” his father said. “Watching him now, he’s doing all the things I taught him and more. From his freshman year to now, Karl has made a great transition and it’s because his work ethic is off the chart.”
Even though at seven feet tall Karl now towers over his father, the elder Towns still continues to push and critique him.
“He needs to try to block every shot and when people want to be aggressive with him, he needs to find other means to get open,” said Senior, whom can be seen at Karl’s games closely watching and analyzing his son.
That work ethic instilled in Towns by his father has been the basis of many of his accomplishments since he enjoys a challenge. When he was 14, Towns worked out with current NBA standouts Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and Kyrie Irving while they were still at St. Patrick High School (N.J.). As a freshman in high school, Towns made the Dominican Republic national team where he spent the summer playing against some of the best players in the world including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and the rest of Team USA.
In most father/son relationships, there is a special bond between them. For Big and Little Karl, it was basketball.
“Basketball is what brought us together and made us as close as we are today and it’s meant the world to me,” said Towns, a 2014 McDonald’s All American. “I can’t thank my dad enough for raising me through this game because basketball has taught me all the rules of life.
“I’ve learned how to be a competitor and how to strive but also just how to work with a team and deal with other people. Everyday that you come out, you have to have a purpose. If you didn’t, then you just wasted a whole day of practicing and working on your skills. Basketball is one of those things that you have to stay on top of. Don’t think you can take two weeks off and be as great as you were two weeks ago.
“It is more than just a game. It’s a lifestyle.”
Photo credit: The Towns family and Marlo Williamson, respectively