UK Recruiting

All signs point to 7-footer Towns picking Kentucky

St. Joseph's Karl Towns drove past Seton Hall Prep's Stephon Mosley in March 2012. Towns, who signed to play for the University of Kentucky, was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year on Thursday.
St. Joseph's Karl Towns drove past Seton Hall Prep's Stephon Mosley in March 2012. Towns, who signed to play for the University of Kentucky, was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year on Thursday. The Star-Ledger file photo

On a day when John Calipari announced five signees for his top-ranked class of 2013, his prospects were looking just as bright for another highly regarded recruit.

As reported Wednesday, Karl Towns, the No. 1 sophomore in the country, will announce his college decision Dec. 4 at St. Joseph's High School in Metuchen, N.J.

On Thursday, all signs pointed to that being another big moment for Kentucky basketball recruiting.

St. Joseph's Athletic Director Jerry Smith said there were four schools at the top of Towns' list: Michigan State, Florida, Duke and Kentucky.

Towns has visited each of those schools in recent months, including a trip to Big Blue Madness in October.

The 7-foot center's first taste of Kentucky basketball came over the summer, when he was a member of Calipari's Dominican Republic national team that worked out in Lexington and later played against Team USA.

Smith said that experience with the UK coach left a lasting impression on Towns.

"I think he feels comfortable with him," Smith said. "I always tell kids, even as a freshman in high school, once you feel comfortable, you play at a different level.

"... He knows what Cal expects. So he's going to be at an advantage over other kids entering at the same time. Because he's been with Cal and his staff already and knows what they expect and knows how hard he has to work."

Smith singled out UK assistant Orlando Antigua — who was also an assistant for the Dominican team — as integral to Towns' recruitment.

Antigua was born in the Dominican Republic, as was Towns' mother. "He loves Orlando," Smith said.

The athletic director spoke at times like Towns was sure to commit to Kentucky, which offered him a scholarship earlier this fall.

"What you're going to notice when he goes down there is how the community is going to take to this kid," he said. "This kid will own the community. Forget about on the court. It's going to be about what he does in the community. He is an unbelievable spokesman."

The expectation in recruiting circles is that Towns will indeed end up in Lexington.

Jerry Meyer, a recruiting analyst for 24/7 Sports, said he'd be "shocked" if Towns doesn't pick UK.

"Everything points in that direction — as far as making the decision early and spending the summer playing with Coach Calipari," Meyer said. "I would be extremely, extremely surprised if it's not Kentucky."

And Towns could be here earlier than expected.

A 4.0-plus student, Towns would be a likely candidate for reclassification. Smith said that St. Joe's has access to college courses and that the school might get Towns enrolled in those so he could skip his senior year.

"I think it's going to be this year, next year and gone," Smith said, predicting that Towns will end up in the class of 2014.

He certainly has the talent to move up and head to college early.

Meyer pointed out that Towns has already been compared to such NBA greats as Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Sam Perkins.

"He's got length, he's got athleticism. He really, really can shoot the ball and he's highly skilled in other areas," Meyer said. "He sort of has the total package.

"The fact that he's drawing comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and Sam Perkins and other players like that tells you something right off the bat."

Smith called him a "once-in-a-lifetime" player.

He also talked about his maturity off the court, noting that he was voted class president and has often acted as a spokesman for St. Joe's with prospective students.

"He's a good kid. You're going to really enjoy him," Smith said. "He's really personable and he's going to light up the whole dorm. Cal's going to have his hands full with this kid."

For now, Towns is content to be a high school student.

As Smith was talking, the 16-year-old walked into his office, excited that people — including ESPN personality Dick Vitale — were tweeting about his upcoming announcement.

Towns seemed taken aback by all the attention.

"It's just cool that Dick Vitale is even talking about me," he said.

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