UK Men's Basketball

Mark Story: Karl-Anthony Towns’ rookie season in NBA has outpaced Anthony Davis’ first year

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates after an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Washington. The Timberwolves won 132-129 in double overtime.
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates after an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Washington. The Timberwolves won 132-129 in double overtime. Associated Press

Quick hitters from the Jordan Spieth vict- ... :

21. Karl-Anthony Towns. The ex-Kentucky big man has given the Minnesota Timberwolves one of the best rookie seasons in NBA history.

20. Towns’ metrics. The 7-footer started the first 80 games and averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocked shots and shot 54.2 percent from the field.

19. Anthony Davis comparison. To understand how good a season Towns has had, compare his rookie-year numbers to those of another heralded big man from UK.

18. Davis’ metrics. In his rookie season with New Orleans, the 6-11 Davis started 60 of the 64 games in which he played and averaged 13.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.8 blocked shots and shot 51.6 percent from the field.

17. What’s it mean? If Davis can stay healthy — a big if for a guy who has never played more than 68 games in four NBA seasons — I’ve long thought he will become the best player in professional basketball. Off Towns’ stout rookie season, is it crazy to think that, someday, the two best players in the NBA could be Davis and Towns?

16. Pitino works “waiver wire.” Former Manual High School star Dwayne Sutton — who just put in a strong freshman season at North Carolina-Asheville — announced last week he was transferring to Louisville. He has agreed to begin his career for Rick Pitino as a walk-on.

15. Helped get Asheville to NCAA tourney. Sutton, a 6-5, 195-pound guard, had a monster game in the finals of the Big South Tournament with 25 points and 18 rebounds in UNC-A’s 77-68 win over Winthrop.

14. Double figures against ’Nova. Sutton then had 11 points, one rebound and four turnovers in Asheville’s 86-56 loss to eventual national champion Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.

13. A quality pickup at an opportune time. It is an absolute boon for U of L — a school that just docked itself two future basketball scholarships as a self-imposed sanction related to the strippers/escorts for recruits scandal — to get a quality player (12.8 points and 7.7 rebounds as a freshman) with three years of eligibility left to walk on.

12. State of Alabama bets big on Kentucky. With Jacksonville State’s hiring of former Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper (Greenville native), there are now three Kentuckians serving as head coaches in Alabama. Samford’s Scott Padgett (Louisville) and Troy’s Phil Cunningham (Campbellsville) are the other two.

11. Lucias Mitchell. The coach who led Kentucky State to three straight NAIA men’s basketball national championships (1970-72) was posthumously inducted into the NAIA National Hall of Fame last month. Mitchell, who died in 2010, was 192-47 at KSU (1967-75).

10. Women’s basketball transferring. Little-used reserve Ivana Jakubcova is the fifth Kentucky women’s basketball player with remaining eligibility to leave the program this season. Three quit, one was dismissed and one was never cleared to participate.

9. Plenty of room. With Jakubcova’s departure, Kentucky has five available scholarships for 2016-17. Matthew Mitchell’s Cats have seven returning players and will add University of Cincinnati transfer Makenzie Cann and incoming freshman signees Lindsey Corsaro and Chanin Scott.

8. Not just a UK issue. South Carolina has had three women’s hoops players quit this year. Louisville recently lost McDonald’s All-America guard Taja Cole, who left the program after averaging 15 minutes a game as a freshman. Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer, who averaged 10.1 points a game on a team that reached the national title game in 2014-15, is transferring to Michigan State.

7. Kentucky football. The dominant story line of the Mark Stoops era has been UK’s recruiting push into the state of Ohio.

6. Big number. In Stoops’ first four recruiting classes, the Cats have signed 30 players from Ohio high schools — three in 2013, 11 in 2014, five in 2015 and 11 in this year’s class.

5. Caution light flashing? The news over the weekend that redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Jarrett LaRubbio (Liberty Township, Ohio) was transferring was noteworthy.

4. Departures. Of the 19 Ohio products who signed with Kentucky from 2013-15, six have already left the program and one did not enroll.

3. Starters. In UK’s season-ending loss to Louisville last season, only three Ohio products were listed as starters for the Cats (normal tight end starter, C.J. Conrad, was not among them).

2. Florida and Kentucky. Against U of L, Kentucky’s 22 starters included eight players from Florida and five Kentuckians.

1. Moral of the story. Three years is not enough time to render a final verdict on the “push into Ohio.” However, Kentucky really needs Buckeye State products such as Dorian Baker, C.J. Conrad, George Asafo-Adjei, Mike Edwards and Darius West to emerge as genuine standouts in 2016.