Karl Towns Jr.'s towering size and diverse skill set makes it easy to forget he's still a high school freshman, but the 6-foot-11, 225-pound Piscataway, N.J., resident still occasionally has moments when he shows his youth.
When his father informed him after a workout Monday that he'd made the Dominican national team, which will compete for the country's first-ever Olympic berth this summer, Towns initially didn't recognize the gravity of what he'd accomplished.
"It was so funny when I told him," his father, Karl Towns Sr., said. "He said, 'Oh, that's nice, but daddy, I'm so hungry you wouldn't believe it.' He'd just got done working out and he was tired, so I told him at the wrong point."
Only after a flood of calls from reporters and congratulatory texts and tweets from friends did the 16-year-old Towns finally understand the opportunity he now has. Towns, whose mother is Dominican, will play alongside the likes of NBA veterans Al Horford, Francisco Garcia and Charlie Villanueva in pool play of the Olympic qualifying tournament July 2-8 in Caracas, Venezuela.
The addition of Towns to the Dominican team will undoubtedly raise questions since Kentucky's John Calipari will be his coach this summer. As a result, Kentucky will have an advantage over the dozens of high-profile schools recruiting Towns since Calipari will coach the Class of 2015 standout directly this summer during training in Lexington and during the qualifying tournament.
Karl Towns Sr. acknowledged it certainly gives Kentucky a leg up in the recruitment of his son, but he insisted the younger Towns earned his place on the Dominican national team on merit rather than because of Calipari's interest in recruiting him.
In four games as a member of the Dominican U-17 team last summer, Towns averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds against players who were two years older than he was. His size, shot-blocking and ability to draw opposing big men to the perimeter with his outside shot make him a potential asset to the Dominican team off the bench.
"I want people to know he made it for his ability, not because of who the coach is," Karl Towns Sr. said. "He'll be with his Dominican family this summer. If he goes to Kentucky, that will be his other family. But right now the key is to get the Dominican team into the Olympics. That's the only key right now.
"There's too much at stake for them to do him a favor. They have to qualify. They need the best players they can carry to make this work."
Regardless of whether Towns makes much impact on the court this summer, the chance to play against the likes of Horford and Villanueva in practice can only help him. They'll surely push him around and humble him a bit, but he'll also get a firsthand glimpse of their size, strength and work ethic.
"He's going to be battling with guys who are men, so when he gets done with this, he's going to know what it takes to be an NBA player," the elder Towns said. "When he gets back, Karl's going to double his work ethic. I think right now this is the greatest thing that could have happened to him."
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