Big Blue Nation can finally rejoice.
After weeks of building anticipation, St. Joseph standout Karl Towns announced his verbal commitment to Kentucky in a special live broadcast on MSG Varsity Tuesday morning in Metuchen.
The 7-foot sharp-shooting center, who is widely considered as the one of the top high school basketball recruits in America, chose the Wildcats over Duke, Florida, N.C. State, Michigan State, Rutgers and Seton Hall.
He also announced he will be reclassifying to 2014 in order to accelerate his college arrival. This process has become a trend among many of the country's top prep ballers; Andrew Wiggins (Huntington Prep, W. Va.), Dakari Johnson (Montverde Academy, Fla.) and Wayne Selden (Tilton, N.H.) have all moved up a grade within the last year.
"It feels so good that this is over," Towns said afterward. "I always wanted to play at a high level. Picking a college can be pretty distracting, so now I can enjoy a stress-free high school career."
Ultimately, Towns' final three included Kentucky, Duke and Florida, saying, "I knew it'd be some shade of blue. I just didn't know which one. At the end of the day, it was a Kentucky and Duke standoff and Kentucky won."
Towns, a Piscataway native who celebrated his 17th birthday two weeks ago, was selected to Kentucky coach John Calipari's Dominican team in late May and traveled the world this summer with the squad, which finished one position shy of making the cut for the 2012 Olympic games.
Now, though, his relationship with Calipari will change.
"We're going to have different types of conversations at Kentucky," Towns said. "We'll do whatever we have to do to get a national championship. I am allowed to play for one of the most coveted rings in the world -- a national championship ring."
Towns claimed his time with Calipari didn't sway his decision because they didn't talk recruiting. When those talks came about -- mostly during Towns' two visits to the Kentucky campus -- he said multiple reasons turned him onto being a Wildcat.
"(Calipari's) real pitch was that I'd fit in with the offense," Towns said. "Other than that, he really didn't talk too much from a basketball standpoint. He let the basketball part speak for itself."
Having maintained a 4.3 GPA and known for being a stellar student in high school, Towns also said he was thrilled to find out Kentucky offers a kinesiology program.
Alongside NBA teammates Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks and Francisco Garcia of the Sacramento Kings, Towns helped the Dominican Republic to a fourth-place finish in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Towns, whose mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, is Dominican, trained with the Dominican senior national team last year and was invited back. In the final game of the squad's international tour against Team USA, he drained a 3-pointer, recorded a snazzy no-look assist and grabbed two rebounds.
It was a sparkling preview of what may come in the future for the Wildcats, who are the defending NCAA national champions.
"I just want to be the best collegiate athlete I can be, and right now I'm trying to be the best high school player I can be," Towns said.
Towns finished his freshman year at St. Joseph averaging 11.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, and 2.0 3-pointers per contest. He notched 15 double-doubles in 31 games, officially establishing himself as the next big thing in New Jersey.
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter