The London Olympics are still a month away, but Karl Towns already has a gold medal.
The 6-foot-10 rising sophomore at St. Joseph-Metuchen High School earned his first piece of international hardware as a member of the Dominican Republic national team, which won the Centrobasket Tournament Sunday with an 80-72 decision over Puerto Rico in the final.
“It was a great feeling knowing that I have a gold medal and now I can put it next to my state championship ring,” Towns said. “Knowing all the success that God’s given me, it’s really a blessing. I just want to keep succeeding.”
The experience has already been a memorable one for Towns, a Piscataway resident.
“It’s been amazing,” Towns said. “Playing all these great players from overseas and in the NBA is making me a better player.”
Towns, who is the youngster on the team, is seeing a bit of playing time.
“I got minutes here and there,” Towns said. “In the big games Coach Cal (John Calipari) wanted to keep the top people in. We knew they could get the job done. Most games when we played well and had a lead, me and some other guys went in.”
Next up for Towns and the Calipari-coached Dominicans is the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which begins July 2 in Caracas, Venezuela. The top three finishers there earn the final spots in the bracket at the London Games.
“We’re super fired up,” said Towns of the team’s mindset heading into the qualifying tournament. “We just got one gold medal, and we’re taking all the great feelings over to Venezuela. I think we’re going to qualify for (London), and maybe not only qualify but win gold.”
There is also a scheduled “friendly” against the U.S. Olympic team July 12 in Las Vegas. That will air on ESPN2.
Since he’s been playing with the national team for several weeks, Towns has seen a few adjustments to his game.
“I’m getting used to a faster-paced game. I’m working hard on my whole body. The biggest thing I’ve worked on is the low-post game. Now that’s becoming strength, going to the post and backing people up. I can still shoot the 3, but posting up a guy like Samardo Samuels, that’s a great experience. When I come back to the high school level I’ll be 10 times better than I was last year.
“I’m having a great time,” added Towns. “We’re going around the world, playing basketball. Life could not be any sweeter.”