CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — While the world’s best golfers are battling for the U.S. Open title Sunday near Philadelphia, one of the nation’s best high school basketball players will likely be on a golf course not far away.
New Jersey native Karl Towns is Kentucky’s only commitment so far from the class of 2014. Towns is considered one of the top five prospects in his class, and that ranking didn’t come easy.
The 7-footer is on the court or in the weight room six days a week, preparing himself for a summer with the Dominican national team and a college career at UK.
On Sunday, he hits the links.
“He’s got this golf thing — I don’t know what it is, bro. If he don’t golf, he loses it,” said his father, Karl Towns Sr. “So he golfs every Sunday. He’s got extended clubs, everything. It’s crazy.”
Towns jokes that he plays enough that “I probably could beat Charles Barkley,” the NBA Hall of Famer with the infamously hideous swing.
One of his main reasons for playing is to escape from the everyday grind of basketball and the attention that comes with being one of the best prep players in the country.
“For me — and just going to Kentucky, especially — media’s always going to be around,” he said. “You guys didn’t come today not to say something to me. I love all you guys. I really respect you all. But, at the end of the day, sometimes I’ve just got to get away.”
It’s not all fun and games, though.
Towns Sr. said playing golf helps his son develop better concentration skills, which translates to the basketball court. “Everything is a thinking process. He says golf has made him become a better player. It keeps him focused on what’s important.”
Towns is an extraordinary shooter for a player of his size, especially at the free-throw line. He made the correlation between shooting and hitting a golf ball.
“You’re trying to hit a golf ball perfectly and you only get one chance at it,” he said. “Just like a free throw. You only get one chance. I go up there, just like I’d hit a golf ball, and be very concentrated, be very focused, just zone out and make that free throw.”
Towns Sr. said his son is so obsessed with the game that he has asked his high school coach, David Turco, to re-schedule practice times so he can get in a round.
“His head coach? He just laughs,” Towns Sr. said.
Is Towns any good?
“He’s good! This cat is good!” his father said. “That cat be clearing 300 (yards) easy, bro. I’m telling you — he can hit it.”
What if UK golf coach Brian Craig wanted Towns to come out for the team next season?
“Karl would be right over there golfing with them cats,” Towns Sr. said. “This cat would golf every day.”
The high school golf and basketball schedules in New Jersey conflict with each other, so Towns hasn’t been able to play competitively for St. Joseph High.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t serious about his game.
He’s a strict traditionalist, according to his father.
“Golfers don’t use no carts. Karl walks 18, bro,” Towns Sr. said.
He shook his head at the thought of his son’s reasoning.
“He says, ‘You don’t see Tiger Woods in a cart.’ I said, ‘Karl … you’re not Tiger Woods!”