Kentucky Basketball: Does Landing Karl Towns Jr. Signal a Shift in Recruiting?
Towns was originally part of the Class of 2015, but reclassified to the Class of 2014 in order to play in Lexington a year earlier than expected.
At just 15 years old, Towns is already dominating the high school scene, averaging 11.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.1 blocks per game, and leading his team in threes en route to a state title.
Yep. The 6'11" center can shoot threes, and he is really, really good at it.
It's no wonder that Towns is considered among the top recruits in the nation. He has also proven that he is an elite player with a ton of potential, despite being just 15 years old.
He is so young, in fact, that it came as a bit of a surprise that he chose Kentucky.
Coach Cal has a way with recruits and may be the best recruiter in history, but he typically pursues guys during their senior year of high school at the latest. In fact, I was surprised that he landed the Harrison twins, James Young and Marcus Lee before the regular signing period.
However, Cal gains an early commitment from the former sophomore, who is now considered a junior.
This begs the question: is Calipari going after younger recruits?
He has been very successful with his model of going hard after players when they are nearing a decision, but might now be trying to get a head start on other programs.
The question looms, but I'm going to say no, he is not changing his model.
Calipari knew that Towns was a talented player from the start. He knew he wanted the guy, but I doubt that he would have pursued him as hard as he did early on if it wasn't for his prior connection with the big man.
Towns played for the Dominican Republic's Olympic team in the 2012 Summer Games—a team that Calipari coached. The two developed a chemistry as they played against the United States and some of the best competitors in the world.
Coach Cal loved his play and even went on record saying that Towns has a bright future ahead of him (before he committed to Kentucky).
The two developed a chemistry that Towns talks about in the video from the Games on the right, and it surely helped Cal's chances in landing the big man despite his desire to end the recruiting process early.
It's not that Calipari actively sought Towns out—it's that he happened to have the recruit play for him over the summer, and that is why he landed such a young recruit.
This is not a sign of things to come.
The bigger question facing Kentucky is how Towns' unique skill set will affect the program's style of play.
Towns is a big fella, but he has the ball-handling skills and shooting touch of a much smaller player.
These highlights illustrate his versatility and ability to play anywhere on the court, and we can expect similar such plays in Lexington in two years.
He stands at an impressive 6'11" and 250 pounds, and he wears size 20 shoes. He is still growing and could easily be 7'1" or 7'2" when he gets to college.
Towns has been compared to Kevin Durant, although I may even combine that with a comparison to Dirk Nowitzki. He has excellent catch-and-shoot skills, and is dangerous from anywhere within 28 feet of the hoop.
This is not how Kentucky centers typically play.
Yes, Anthony Davis was capable of shooting well and possessed a nice athleticism that allowed him to flourish at the college level.
Yes, Nerlens Noel is currently trying to replicate that success with a similar game to that of Davis.
No, neither of them truly played like Towns.
This kid is a talented shooter, and he knows it. He does not play inside as much as Davis and Noel, instead hitting jumpers and threes like nobody's business.
Towns is going to bring a complete perimeter presence to the floor as a center, which means most of Kentucky's players will be along the outside.
However, if Calipari can couple Towns with a true big man it won't matter. If he can land a true center like Jahil Okafor, the team will be able to play its trademark brand of basketball.
What are your expectations for Karl Towns Jr. in his first year at Kentucky?
I see Towns playing the role of a power forward on offense because of his ability to stretch the defense, similar to that of Kyle Wiltjer this season, who is taking 5.8 threes per game.
Assuming that the team has a true center on offense, his style won't change Kentucky's offensive plans at all.
This commitment from Towns is huge for the Wildcats, but it does not change how Calipari recruits or how the team will play its game.
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