One on one with Karl Towns

The nation's top player in the class of 2015 sits down for an extended interview with TDD.

He is widely considered one of, if not the top prospect from the class of 2015. He's good enough to have represented his county by already playing for its senior national team. Despite all of that, Karl Towns hasn't really begun to look at the recruiting process. But that process is definitely on the horizon as he tells TDD.

Before we talk about basketball Karl, can you share what your interests are off the court?

Karl Towns: I'm an outgoing, funny, joking guy. I try to be very sociable, and I really try to be the best guy I can be. I try to live to a higher standard but I love watching any sport you put on TV like soccer, basketball, and baseball. When I'm not in the gym I'm watching sports because that what I love to do in my spare time.

Do you have favorite teams you watch?

Oh yeah, for soccer, I love Real Madrid, my favorite NBA team is the Knicks, and I love the Eagles. It's hard because my dad is a Niners fan, so it was good that they finally had a good season last year. I'm a big Yankees fan too.

What's your favorite sports memories?

There's so many. From baseball, its when Kirk Gibson hit that home run against in the A's. It's also the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona. For basketball it's when Duke hit the game winning shot in the NCAA Tournament by Christian Laettner. With the NBA, it's when LeBron with the Cavs hit the game winning shot against the Magic in the playoffs.

The biggest football memory was when Tebow threw the TD pass to Demaryius Thomas. My dad and I were going crazy, we were hoping he was going to do well. I just really like Tebow because he's such a nice person, you really can't like him, he preservers through a lot of things, good people like him deserve the best, he's such a nice person.

Did you grow up playing soccer or did you just watch?

I liked watching and playing, and when I was younger I played a little bit. One of my biggest friends in the world is a guy who was the best soccer player in New Jersey, so that got me interested too.

Were you always a big kid playing basketball, did you grow up playing the post?

I was always a tall kid, but it's funny you asked about my positions because my dad always made sure when I was growing up that I played all five positions. My dad gave me a chance to experience playing all five positions, it's really helped me a lot.

Have you rooted for the Knicks for a long time?

Yeah, being so close in New Jersey, having a chance to watch them was always a good thing. I decided to become a Knicks fan a long time ago.

Are you watching the current Knick players playing for Team USA?

Yeah I definitely am. It was fun getting a chance to meet Tyson Chandler and Carmelo, it was great to see how my Knicks were doing, and I'm watching now to see how they are doing.

When did the move happen from the Dominican to the United States?

It happened a long time ago. There was a guy named Ross Salazar who came and found out who I was and was looking for guys who could play. I started out playing for him, and he thought I'd be good so he got me in to tryout with one of the national teams in DR and I met the top guy Eduardo, and the rest is history.

How did it come to be for you to play at St Jospeh's?

Yeah, I love St Joe's, it's really a place I like, it's really close to home and my family, and the education is always so high. Being able to have my family there to watch me play, it's great. They also have a rich tradition with guys like Jay Williams and Andrew Bynum, so it's great to follow in their footsteps as I try to make my parents proud.

Have you had a chance to meet or speak personally with either Bynum or Jay Williams?

No, I haven't been able to meet either of them yet personally. I'm really hoping that they come back someday just so I can meet them. I'm hoping that I'll be up where they were by the time I'm done playing.

Did you follow Jay's career while he was at Duke?

I knew he went there and I did follow him. It was hard knowing what the motorcycle did to his career, but now that I see him doing things on ESPN, it's a good feeling seeing him do different things. It really shows that you never know when you are going to lose basketball, so education is really important to have, seeing his example having an accident and having his degree to fall back on from Duke is a good thing.

Tell me some more about your family, you guys sound close knit.

The boss is definitely my mom. She loves me and my sister to death, and she wants what's best for us. She's very social, and she's always the caregiver of the family. My sister played basketball for Virginia State, she had a chance to go to the WNBA, but she wanted to quit basketball and use her computer engineering degree instead. My family has always just stood by me and loved me, that's why we are so close.

How do you balance knowing that if you keep improving you may have the opportunity to go pro early while also wanting to graduate with a college degree?

It's a big thing to me to get my degree, you never know when you could lose basketball, so my plan is to get my degree, however that happens.

How much are you looking to the example of number one players in the classes ahead of you?

I look at how they handle the pressure and publicity and learn from them on how to be a good person. I just watch them play and learn from their example because I'm just trying to climb the mountain like they are.

Are you friends with guys on the AAU circuit?

I'm really good friends with Al Horford from my Dominican team. On the AAU team I'm good friends with Diamond Stone, guys from Team Final, I'm always wanting to meet other people.

Have you ever had a chance to play with Kyrie Irving since he's from New Jersey too?

I've actually practiced in an AAU practice with him before, and I met him at a practice at St Patricks with Kevin Boyle. My coach used to be Kevin Boyle, so he'd tell me to come work out with him, seeing where Kyrie's gone is great because that could be me some day.

Playing for your country, what was the experience like for you?

It was one of the proudest moments of my life, just being able to play for my mother's country, play at the highest level for her, it was great. Playing the game I love, that's all I wanted to do.

From a basketball perspective, what was it like for you as a player to get to be on the same court as Team USA and all their stars?

It was just really great, I enjoyed it. It was one of those things I'll tell everybody about, it was one of the most fondest moments to step on the court with some of the best players in the world like LeBron and Kobe and Kevin Durant and Carmelo and others. Being able to be sociable with them and having the interactions and connections now, it was a great moment for me, even as a kid

What did you learn about yourself and the game playing against such a high level of player?

For me, it taught me that basketball is a tree and I'm only on one side of the tree and playing that level of talent, there's a whole new side of the tree that I'm not even near yet. There's multiple branches that you need to learn and fix and see what you can do. I'm just trying to increase my knowledge so I can become a better player.

What did playing with Al Horford do for you as a person and a player?

Oh, it just made me an even better person and player. He's a very good friend, very loyal, he's just such a great guy. Being able to practice against him every single day just made me a better player and a better person.

What was it like from your perspective being coached by Coach Calipari?

You know, Coach Cal is a great coach, and I have utmost respect for him. He put our country on the map with basketball and he got us to play hard, I gained a lot of knowledge that I didn't know before, helped us become a better team and me a better player.

Are you guy you spends a lot of time watching film Karl ? You sound like such a student of the game….

Yeah, you can never get too much of film study. I love watching film of myself and my opponents, seeing if I can learn their moves, that always helps you as a player, I always need to do more, how to work hard on pick and rolls. Going to practice and doing workouts is great, but it's only one part of it, you gotta watch film to see where mistakes are so you can learn from those mistakes by going back into practice afterwords and working on those mistakes. I think it's important to always watch film so you can try and get things perfect, my father would say I'm a perfectionist, because to me, if you only put in 80% instead of a 100%, you'll never become the person and player you hope to become.

Where did that attitude come from?

It comes from my family. I take it seriously but I also find this incredibly fun and I have a real passion for the game. My sister is always making sure I know that if I'm home watching cartoons, there's somebody else out there who is watching you on film, studying you so that they can become better than you. My dad is always telling me to target things as a player, just giving me a lot of knowledge. No player ever failed by watching too much film.

How do you feel knowing everybody is gunning for you since you have the #1 spot in 2015?

Yeah it goes back to what I was saying before about the 80% comment, it's just a ranking. I's showing all the hard work I've put in is paying off, but I'm always honing my game. It just tells me that I have the possibility that I could do something with basketball, you have a possibility to be something, you have the possibility to play basketball for the next 10-15 years, but right now, it doesn't mean much.

Switching to recruiting, can you share how involved you are with your recruiting process?

I'm not big into it right now. I love and appreciate the schools that are recruiting me, but my dad and family is really the ones who are taking it for me. If I have an unofficial to take, it's because my dad has set it up. My dad takes the burden off my back so I can go concentrate on playing hard, doing film and I am grateful to my dad for doing that. I'm so open right now, I don't even know what schools I really like.

What schools have you already visited?

Oh, there's so many I don't even remember all of them.

Switching gears, what are your overall goals with basketball?

Go to the NBA hopefully, take care of my family's needs, and then go back to the Dominican Republic and show kids that they don't need to live the same lifestyle that they have been living that have been pre-planned for them. Hopefully I can show them that you can dream bigger dreams and do different things in life.

I wanted to ask you about Duke if I could since you mentioned them earlier, did you grow up watching them?

My dad always wanted me to watch the best, and Duke was always way up there in college basketball. Duke was always on TV, when you are on the top of the plateau like they have been for so long, I just always watched them. That game winning shot that Laettner had, that was one of the most memorable sports memories for me ever. My dad always showed me who the best were, and they seemed to be on a lot, so I always looked to watch them play. It made me a better basketball player just by watching how they played and seeing Coach K coach and the players worked, I learned a lot.

What's your current impressions of them as a program?

The Blue Devils are just one of the best programs ever, and their community is really great as well. They are a school that welcomes people in, and they have the history there with Shane Battier and Jay Williams, it's just so great. You can't get any better in college basketball than you can with Coach K, he'll be the best coach ever in college basketball and seeing the moves he makes on the court with his team, he just coaches them so great. It' s just ridiculously amazing seeing how he coaches his team at Duke and then seeing him up close coach Team USA, they make great moves, it just seems like he's always making the right moves and all the other coaches aren't doing all that he does.

Have you had any interaction with Coach K

I went up and said hi to him after the game against Team USA, and I just wanted him to know I appreciate how great a coach he is and also to let him know there was at least one Dominican player who really wanted to say hello to him. I just really wanted to be there with him so I could maybe pick his brain. Hopefully someday I'll be able to sit down with him and maybe he can even make me a better player. I've always had an interest in Duke because I've always wanted to play for the best and it doesn't get much better than Coach K and Duke. They may have a slight edge because of that but at the same time, there's lots of good schools out there and I'm nowhere near making any kind of decision.

Have they expressed any interest in you?

I really have no idea with that, I'm not involved in that part of it. I'm so wide open right now. It'll be really nice if I get interest from them, but right now it's all about concentrating on basketball, becoming a better player and recruiting stuff will take care of itself much later.

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