NBA Summer League in Las Vegas tips off this Friday giving basketball junkies their first glimpse at some of the league’s prospective stars, including former Kentucky Wildcat Karl-Anthony Towns. Earlier this summer, the young Dominican and fifty of his closest friends and family celebrated in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Towns with the #1 pick in the draft.
This marked only the second time in NBA history that a Latino had been drafted at the top of the boards, fourteen years after the Dallas Mavericks took Mexican-American Mark Aguirre with the first pick.
“It means the world to me to play with an organization that is – especially for me, my Dominican roots storied, with Felipe Lopez playing for them,” said Towns at the draft, acknowledging the first Dominican baller to suit up up for the Timberwolves. “It just really is a great moment for me to keep the roots going in Minnesota and be able to just continue my legacy and just try and win more championships.”
The last time a Minnesota squad captured a pro hoops title, they were called the Lakers and George Mikan started at center. When New York City phenom Felipe Lopez joined the Timberwolves at the turn of the century, Kevin Garnett led them to consecutive fifty win seasons and first-round playoff exits. With Towns in the fold, fellow #1 picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett still on the roster, and Ricky Rubio manning the point, there is newfound optimism in Minnesota.
The day after the draft Towns was already at work, putting up jumpers in the Timberwolves practice facility. Those around him credit that work ethic with helping him excel with the Dominican Republic national team and at Kentucky, where he fully embraced the voice inside his head.
Dubbed Karlito by Kentucky’s coaches, Towns’ imaginary friend is an alter ego of sorts who Towns has been known to confide in on the court, to release his frustrations. With input from Towns, artist Nathan Walker brought Karlito to life prior to the draft. A fully realized form with his own twitter handle, @Karlito_Towns, Karlito was spotted on draft night and has been along for the ride ever since.
“For me, I’m just blessed to be in this opportunity to just show that a boy from Piscataway, New Jersey, and Dominican Republic can make it,” said Towns at the Barclays Center. “It just means the world that I’m going to be able to show kids around the world that with a little hard work, determination, a little bit of luck and some guidance, you can really make it far in this world.”