UK Men's Basketball

Ex-Cat Towns found no surprise in being NBA’s Rookie of the Year

Towns says 'Karlito' made jump with him from Kentucky to NBA

'He's in my house. He's having a blast,' Towns says of alter-ego.
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'He's in my house. He's having a blast,' Towns says of alter-ego.

Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns found nothing surprising about his instant success as a professional basketball player.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Towns said the success was a byproduct of hard work.

“I knew what I did in those hours when people were asleep,” he said. “I knew what I did when those people were eating dinner. I knew where I was. I understood the amount of work I put in to my craft. I trusted it.”

Towns spoke in response to a question about whether the Rookie of the Year Award came as a surprise.

“People ask me that same question,” he said, “and I’m actually surprised I didn’t do better. I felt I had a lot left that I could have done.”

Towns excelled as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that is a popular pick to be a contender for NBA championships in future seasons. The ex-Cat agreed with that assessment.

In saluting new coach Tom Thibodeau, Towns said, “the vision he has meshes with the vision we have for ourselves spectacularly. Now, it’s up to us to execute.”

Besides Towns, who would be about to begin his junior season at UK in a world without the one-and-done player, other young standouts on the Minnesota team include Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad.

The website FiveThirtyEight singled out Towns as “a high draft pick who turns into a superstar.” Such a player separates the great from the merely good.

As a rookie, Towns averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 32 minutes.

Curiously, although playing against superior competition, Towns averaged more as an NBA rookie than he did in his one season for Kentucky (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 21.1 minutes).

While former teammate Devin Booker acknowledged some concern about UK’s platoon system of substitutions in 2014-15 hurting NBA teams’ attempts to judge his game, Towns said he had no such worries.

Towns touted UK Coach John Calipari’s record of helping players reach their dreams as easing any concerns.

“I never cared about the minutes ... ,” Towns said. “I don’t think I need to tell you guys (the reporters present at the news conference) how good (Calipari) is at putting players in the NBA. ... That’s a fact no one needs to check. That’s just a given. There’s no variables when it comes to his ability to make our dreams and aspirations come true.”

Towns voiced confidence that UK’s record of winning and placing players in the NBA will continue, beginning with next season.

While saying he had not played in pickup games with UK’s incoming freshmen, Towns added, “I don’t think I need to jump in a pickup game to know how talented they are. It’s on paper. I don’t need to see it. You know they’re going to be a very good team, possibly one that rivals ours.”

During the news conference, Towns also:

▪  Expressed mild regret, while smiling, for dunking on a child in a camp this summer.

“I look back on it now, maybe I went in too aggressive,” he said.

When asked about a video of the dunk going viral, Towns smiled brightly and said, “I thought it was hilarious.”

▪  Saluted the good showing in an NBA summer league by former UK teammate Tyler Ulis.

“I didn’t expect anything else,” said Towns, who questioned why Ulis was not a higher draft pick. “His heart and his skill is just too much to pass on. And I’m surprised he dropped so much in the draft.

“Phoenix has a good record of knowing what Kentucky guards can do. They drafted the right player and they got a player who is probably going to play in this league a long, long time.”

▪  Said his alter ego “Karlito” joined him in the transition from college to NBA.

“He’s in my house,” Towns said. “He’s having a blast. I think he’s enjoying Minnesota just as much as I am. My niece and nephew are absolutely infatuated with him.”

▪  Credited the media for helping make his time in Kentucky enjoyable and fruitful.

“The media gets a bad rap,” Towns said, “and you guys have been absolutely nothing but classy, professional and ... fun to be around.”

Besides informing UK fans, the media also helps the players, Towns said.

“Just giving us, the players, the confidence to talk to you guys,” he said. “And the willingness to open up to you guys is what makes it so fun.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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