Currently the top-rated center in the 2015 class, Karl Towns already has coaches coveting his talents. Despite only entering his sophomore year in high school, his skills allowed him to make the Dominican Republic National Team. He was allowed to play for the Dominicans because his mother was born there. Coached by Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari, they ultimately fell short of their Olympic goal. However, the experience was one Towns will never forget.
"The experience with the Dominican team was just tremendous," he recalled. "It was an honor and privilege to play for them, my country. It was just always working hard every day. Two practices a day. Game days were very focused days. The experience just showed me how to live a life of a professional basketball player. I just lived this for three months and I loved every minute of it. "Hopefully one day, instead of doing this for three months, I can do this forever."
"The biggest adjustment was learning the new offenses and defenses," Towns continued. "The schemes were totally different than what I was running in high school. So it was really hard for me. It took a good amount of days to really get it down pat. The guys all respected me very well. They all wanted me to do the best I can.
"They treated me a like a young guy, but at the same time like one of their friends."
Being able to play for a veteran coach and with veteran players allowed Towns to grow as a person, and as a player.
"I realized really, big-time, my post-up game and how it's my strength over my three-pointer," he described. "It's a very weird thing to say. But I actually enjoyed more being on the post than the three-pointer. It made it ten times better than what it used to be. Then just my basketball IQ. I learned so much from Coach Cal, Coach Vinny Del Harris, and Coach (Orlando) Antigua, I just learned so much. I just wanted to bring that back with me to New Jersey for this upcoming season.
"I think the thing I gained the most from this was just knowledge of the game."
Despite not making the Olympics, Towns had an opportunity to play against the United States Olympic team in an exhibition. That experience was very special to him.
"Playing with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and all of them was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had," Towns explained. "I was able to play against the greatest athletes in the world. I played against LeBron and Kobe. It was just an experience where I'm like, I always wanted to meet these players and now I'm playing against them. It was a funny experience but a great experience.
"Kobe and LeBron, all of them, just told me to keep working on my game and keep staying in the gym."
While many might view Coach Cal's job coaching the team and Towns as a recruiting advantage, Towns said Calipari was all business during the experience and never discussed recruiting. However, Towns was able to spend time on the Kentucky campus while they practiced and enjoyed that experience.
"Coach Cal is a great guy," stated Towns. "He really taught me a lot in my time with the Domincan National Team and I have to thank him for that. I just think he's a great coach. I understand why people would want to play for Coach Cal. He's a great coach and a great guy. He's really humble and a great guy to be around. He's actually really funny.
"Coach Cal with this whole experience gave us a great shot at making the Olympics. I have to thank him for that as a country. The experience with Cal was really good."
Despite his positive experience playing for Coach Calipari, Towns says his recruitment is still very early, and he's wide open.
"I was in Kentucky for awhile and walked around the campus on my free time," Towns remembered. "It's a really nice campus and a really nice town. Lexington has a great fan base and Kentucky is a great basketball school. It's a really nice place and I see why people like playing there. For me, I'm still wide open. I just enjoyed being in Kentucky. I liked walking around and seeing where the players eat and stuff. But I'm still just very open minded."
Towns says the rest of his summer he will be training and getting ready for the upcoming high school season. His goal is to go for his second straight state championship. He plans on making that his main focus during the next year, but may take some unofficial visits during the season. He mentioned Duke as a possibility for an unofficial visit, but nothing has been scheduled.
Towns also plans to be back in four years to help the Dominicans make the 2016 Olympics.