MSGVarsity.com's "Players to Watch" is a month-long daily series highlighting some of the biggest names you'll be hearing about during the 2013-14 high school sports season. We'll unveil one new player each day in August (including weekend days) until we've covered 30 athletes.
The Karl Towns documentary, "Center of Attention," that first aired two weeks ago on MSG Varsity, offered a revealing look into the deeds, copious skills and noble aspirations of this budding star. But it did leave the viewer with one question that can only be answered through the passage of time:
Is this 7-foot youngster a multi-talented basketball star who also happens to be a model student and leader, or is he an articulate, bright, thoroughly engaging student and young citizen who also happens to excel in the sport of basketball?
The answers will begin to take shape not only soon, but sooner than we would have thought last winter. That's when the sophomore center guided St. Joseph of Metuchen (27-5) to a second consecutive Non-Public A state title and first-ever appearance in the Tournament of Champions final, where it lost to Roselle Catholic, 65-49, despite a 24-point, 12-rebound, four-block outing from Towns in that March 19 game.
The sooner part? Towns reclassified himself as a senior this summer, so he will play for the Falcons just one more season and then be on his way to the University of Kentucky, with whom he made a verbal commitment in December 2012. There has been talk that perhaps Towns will be an NBA Draft pick after just one season, but that is in the speculative stages right now.
It has no doubt been a whirlwind two years for the personable young man from Piscataway, though it's been an odyssey the 17-year old has handled with remarkable grace and insight. He first wowed us with the poise and accuracy he demonstrated as a perimeter shooter in his freshman year, and, more recently, leant astonishingly good narration to his own documentary.
Hard to believe this was a high school kid carrying himself through this entire show with such eloquence. Then again, Towns had surprised us all so many times before with his focus and production, we should have predicted that he would have come across sounding like an old pro.
Towns averaged 11.6 points a game and buried 62 three-pointers as a freshman to help the Falcons to a 29-2 record. Just a few months after that 2012 Non-Public A championship, he was playing for the Dominican National Team in the FIBA Qualifying Games for the 2012 London Olympics. The Dominican club failed to qualify, but the 16-year-old Towns drew wide praise for his energy, resilience and intelligence.
Towns played for John Calipari on the Dominican squad, then expressed his desire to play for him again when he committed to Kentucky just before the start of the 2012-13 high school season. Towns turned in a brilliant season, averaging 20.6 points, 14 rebounds and over five blocks a game. At the conclusion of the season he was named 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year for New Jersey.
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS