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Re: 2015 NBA Draft Thread
Karl-Anthony Towns on possibly going from Knicks fan to savior
With the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, The Postís Steve Serby talked with New Jersey native and former Kentucky star Karl-Anthony Towns, the potential No. 1 pick in Juneís draft ó and the apple of the eye of many Knicks fans.
Q: Do you burn to be great?
A: I burn to be a winner. Thatís all I want to be. I donít care if I scored 200 points in my career, but as long as I can be a winner, thatís the biggest thing with me. Iíve just always wanted to win at all levels. Itís more about winning than being great. I think greatness comes with winning. And you have to win first to be considered great.
Q: OK, hypothetically, letís just say that the Knicks are lucky enough to land you: How would you feel being viewed the same way Patrick Ewing was viewed when Dave DeBusschere lucked into the top pick of the Lottery, as a savior?
A: (Chuckle) You know what? I guess it comes with the territory. It comes with the territory. We gotta be willing to take that stress head-on, and I feel Iím ready for that. If that needs to be my role ó I donít think thatís gonna be my role, I think I could just be a help to my teammates. Iím gonna try and work very hard to give them the best chance to win, but itís not as a savior, you canít do it all by yourself. Thatís why no one is bigger than nobody else. Everyoneís helping each other to get to one common goal, and thatís to win a championship and win games.
Q: Well, how cool would it be having Spike Lee rooting for you?
A: (Laugh) It would be cool, the fact that you always see him at Knicks games and you get to witness it live, and actually rooting for you and not against you. But at the end of the day, wherever the chips fall the chips fall, I just want to be able to play in the league. Not many people get to do what weíre trying to embark on doing. And just to have the ability to say that Iím an NBA player will be a lifelong goal completed.
Q: Iím asking all these Knicks questions because Knicks fans are praying that you wind up with the Knicks.
A: It would be an honor, not only as a player, but as a Knicks fan, to be able to play for that organization. Itís gonna be, I guess a childhood dream ó rooting for the Knicks all this time, and the next thing you know, you hear an organization call your name to go out there and give it your best shot. I think it would very cool, and really very honored and blessed to be able to play for them.
Q: What are your favorite New York city things?
A: I like the scenery. Times Square is awesome. Being able to walk around, I love going to New York, have some pizza. When I was younger, I played in Rucker Park once, it was awesome. Thereís so much history behind New York, and so much history that it takes people lifetimes to realize it all.
Q: You and Jahlil Okafor will be linked together and compared over the next decade.
A: Just one great player. Me and him are really good friends. I admire his game.
Q: Is it important for you to be the No. 1 overall pick?
A: Itís important to be the best player I can be for my teammates. Thatís whatís most important to me
Q: Do you think you should be the No. 1 overall pick?
A: I would be blessed just to play for any organization in the NBA. Itís all about just making the league and taking the next step.
Q: What drives you?
A: I just donít want to fail. I want to try to be the best I can possibly be. And I think what drives me is my teammates. I want to give them the best version of myself, just like my parents taught me, at all given times, and I just want to be the best player I can possibly be for them. Not for myself, not to have 40, 50, 60 points, but to help us together get a W.
Q: How do you know so much about Phil Jackson already?
A: How much do we not know about Phil Jackson? His success speaks for itself in volumes.
Q: And what do you know about Derek Fisher?
A: Heís a champion, and he knows exactly how to win. The biggest thing is he knows how to win from the court. He knows what it takes as a team and as a player, what you need to sacrifice for the greater whole of everybody for a championship, and I think thatís a very big thing to have, especially in a coach when he knows exactly what his players need to do to win when heís won multiple championships himself.
Q: Carmelo Anthony.
A: You donít get many chances in life to see a player like Carmelo Anthony play. Ö Itís just amazing what he can do with the basketball in his hands, and what he can do for his team.
Q: Favorite Knicks?
A: You know what? I loved John Starks, and I loved Walt Frazier. I just loved watching them play. Growing up, I never had a lot of money, and the little time when my family did get cable, youíre able to watch the local games. I could never afford a League Pass or anything like that to watch any NBA games. NBA games come rarely on TNT, ESPN, but I could count on seeing the local teams every game. That was what MSG gave to me, also YES gave me the Nets. I just always kept the local teams very close to me. It was just something that I was guaranteed to watch a lot of NBA games and learn, and thatís why really I think my love for the Knicks started.
Q: You only saw Frazier in highlights, right?
A: Yup. Only Frazier in highlights. YouTube is one of the greatest inventions, especially for me as a player, it allowed me to really study a lot of players and be a much better player. Learning the way they operate, the way they played the game Ö and it also allowed me to, you know, add my little twist to a lot of parts of my game, and allowed me to be the player I am today. I just try to be very unique and started using their styles and learn from them and also add a little bit of my flavor also.
Q: Youíve studied big men, correct?
A: Yes, Iíve studied big men. We can run down a list: Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille OíNeal Ö I just love learning new things Ö Sam Bowie Ö Sam Perkins Ö the list goes on and on. One thing my dad always stressed to me is that, ďIf you want to be good at this game, Karl, you always have to make sure that you know the people who came before you, and respect their game.Ē
Q: In your view, who would you be a combination of?
A: I donít know. Ö I just know that when I finish playing basketball, my main goal is hopefully not have people say I was like this, and I was like that, or I was a combination of this or that. My main goal is to finish my career and have people say, ďHe played like Karl-Anthony Towns.Ē I played like myself. I just want to be able to know that people remember me for doing it my way, and not anyone elseís.
Q: What did you like about Starks?
A: I just loved his tenacity. We all love him for going baseline against the Bulls, thatís one of the great moments, but I think one of the biggest things was the way he played, the way he shot. I just loved watching him play, and I loved that group of guys with him, especially with Patrick Ewing, I just loved that group of guys, and I thought they were a really great team. It was very fun to watch, especially when they showed the throwback games and I loved just watching them play.
Q: And Frazier?
A: The way he ran the team. He was The Man, heís absolutely The Man, and thereís a reason why heís so great ó the fluidity he has, the way he carries himself on the court is amazing. That just shows how much confidence he really had in himself.
Q: How often did you go the Garden as a kid?
A: I never did. The first time I ever got to step in the Garden was for the Dominican team I played on this past summer against Team USA.
Q: And what was that experience like when you first set foot in the Garden?
A: Oh, absolute chills. It was chills up my spine, the fact that how many great players were able to be in that gym and I was able to step on the same court that, I mean, absolute great performances and also great players and also how many legends have stepped on that court also.
Q: Your on-court temperament?
A: I think the biggest thing with me is Iím just a guy who stays to himself. I donít talk very much, I just let my game talk more for me. I just want to win. Itís not about personal stats, itís about how many wins we can get and thatís the biggest thing with me.
Q: What kind of impact do you think you can make as a rookie?
A: I just want to be able to come into the system and I want to be able to do as much as possible as I can, and just contribute to the team as much as possible. If I can, I just want to be able to use my versatility and just be able to help the team in any given way possible. And also I just want to play my game, I just want to be able to help the team win more than anything.
Q: What areas of your game do you think you need to improve?
A: All of íem. I want to improve every single part of my game. I never want to get complacent with anything in my game. I just want and try to be the best ball handler, the best dribbler, the best shooter, on the court at any given time. Iím just never gonna be pleased with anything until maybe the day I retire.
Q: Tell me in what ways you view yourself as a typical 19-year-old.
A: I just think the goofiness, how goofy I am. I just like being a kid. If you would ever walk into my house and turn my TV on, the first thing youíd probably see pop up is Cartoon Network. I just stay close, I stay close to who I am, Iím never gonna change for anyone, and I keep the way I am the way I am. I just want to be myself, and thatís who Iíll always be.
Q: Why was it so important for you to write a five-page thank you note to the Kentucky fans?
A: My mom and my dad always told me, ďIf youíre gonna do something, Karl, make sure you do it to the best of your ability.Ē I just wanted to make sure the media knew how professional they were to me. I felt the best way to do that was to give them something hand-written by himself, not typed, but hand-written in my own handwriting just to express how I feel about how the season went and also to thank them so much about whatever they had done for me and my family and my brothers in this journey that we went through.
Q: Describe what you referred to as ďthe pain of 38-1.Ē
A: Itís hard to be so perfect, but yet so faulty. And, thatís what we were. We just Ö we couldnít finish it out. We couldnít be perfect, absolutely perfect with no fault. It hurts a lot to know how close we were to perfection, how far we really were. It hurts a lot to think that with everything we felt was going right, it wasnít even about being perfect, it was more about winning a championship and the fact that we were not able to capitalize on that, for me personally, it will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Q: It sounds like youíre still not over it.
A: I wonít be over it for a very, very long time. I donít think Iíll ever be over it.
Q: How would you assess the difference between Coach Turco and Coach Calipari?
A: (Laugh) [St. Joseph] coach [Dave] Turcoís more of the quiet guy. Both are excellent coaches, and both are Hall of Famers in their own aspect, too. Iíve been just blessed to have two of the best coaches, in my opinion, that the country has to offer.
Q: Coach Cal?
A: I canít believe how great his hair is. I donít know if he uses hair gel or thatís natural, but I definitely want some hair like that.
Q: Athletes in other sports you admire?
A: Iím an Albert Pujols fan.
Q: You like to play golf ó any favorite golfers?
A: I love watching Rory McIroy play. I love Jordan Spieth. Of course, everyoneís a Tiger Woods fan at heart.
Q: You had a 3.96 GPA in high school. What subject kept you from a 4.0?
A: I got a B-plus in chemistry. I took the hardest one in the school ó very, very hard. I tried my best. I put so many hours into chemistry, tried to master it ó just couldnít be perfect at it.
Q: Do you harbor hopes to play in the Olympics some day?
A: Of course. Thatís my dream, thatís another dream, I just want to be able to play in the Olympics and represent my country, and be able to play for my mother. I mean, thatís one of the biggest things for any athlete is the ability to play for their country. Itís one of the biggest honors and blessings an athlete could ever in their lives.
Q: You would play for the US or the Dominican Republic?
A: Dominican Republic.
Q: Tell me the influence your father had in your life off the court and on the court.
A: Oh, heís always been there for me, always taken care of me and just making sure that I could be the best I could possibly be. Heís the one who taught me the game of basketball, and look how far itís taken me. So I have to give all thanks to him.
Q: Where did you guys play basketball?
A: Our main thing was we always played at Piscataway Vo-Tech. He was a head coach there for 20-plus years, and I just kept using that to my advantage.
Q: Did he ever show you clips of him playing?
A: No, he hasnít. Ö But Iím not sure if I wanted to see that, you know? He wasnít that good I heard. Nah, Iím just playing. Iíve never actually seen him play, I did see pictures of him playing, and Iím just surprised at his ability to jump and how he was able to do things. It was pretty impressive.
Q: Now give me a scouting report on your mom.
A: My mom has a great personality, very care-giving.
Q: Kevin Durant is your favorite player now. The late, great Len Bias was your favorite player.
A: I think the biggest thing is that he shows all of us, the generation coming up now, how fortunate you really are to play the game of basketball and how you shouldnít take it for granted whatsoever.
A: I always listen to the same playlist every game, and I always do the same thing before every game in college also. I did the same stretches in the same order. On the court, when weíre like getting introductions, I always do the same thing before and I always pray during the National Anthem.
A: I love golf. I love playing video games. I love watching movies. Iím a huge Monopoly fan. I love playing Monopoly.
Q: Three dinner guests.
A: If weíre talking about basketball, I would love to talk to Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Len Bias. If weíre talking about comedy, oh, gotta be Charles Barkley, Shaquille OíNeal, Kevin Hart.
If I had to pick anybody, without it being like Jesus Christ himself, I like mythology. I definitely would probably pick Homer, Aristotle Ö Leonardo Da Vinci. Those are some of the greatest minds the world has ever seen and ever had on this planet.
Q: Any reason you didnít mention me?
A: And of course, you sit in the highest chair possible, I promise you. In the Kingís chair.
Q: Favorite movie.
A: ďSpace Jam.Ē
Q: Favorite actor.
A: Iím going Will Smith ícause I look like him so much.
Q: Favorite entertainers.
A: Drake and Mac Miller.
Q: Favorite meal.
A: Chicken and rice, no doubt.
Q: Your sports fantasy.
A: I think sports fantasy is to win a championship. If I had a true sports fantasy, and it could be anything, I wish I could go back in time and win an NCAA championship, but canít take back whatís gone now.
Q: What were the circumstances that Karlito came into being?
A: Itís funny, Coach Cal was in practice, and he kept saying that he thought I was talking to myself, to my shoulder. I didnít believe I was doing it whatsoever. Coaches confirmed what he thought, they thought the same thing. Our coach, who is actually now the St. Johnís assistant coach, Barry Rohrssen, Slice, he called it Karlito: ďHeís talking to Karlito, Coach Cal.Ē
Q: How does Karlito feel about you maybe ending up with the Knicks?
A: Karlito is so elated to have the chance to even play in the NBA, I donít think he really cares if he ends up playing in Antarctica, for all he cares. I know one thing ó me and him are exactly the same, we just want to be able to play.
Q: What will be going on inside your guy as we get hours and minutes away from the Lottery Tuesday night?
A: I think what itís really gonna come down to is the feeling like all the hard work to get to this point, all the stress that my family had to go through to get to this point, and everything Iíve had to do in my life to get to this point Ö I want to enjoy every minute of it. You only get one chance at it, and I just want to enjoy every second of it.
Q: What message would you give to New York Knick fans about Karl-Anthony Towns if the chips do fall their way?
A: It would be an honor and a privilege to play for your basketball team. I just want to be able to play the game of basketball that I am blessed and honored to play for the New York Knicks. I just would love to win, and thatís what I would try to do every game, to give us the best chance to bring another championship home to MSG.
"Winning is the most important thing in my life,after breathing. Breathing first, winning next"-George Steinbrenner
ďChallenges are for Champions.Ē