Before Michael Jordan was making Bryon Russell fall with a killer crossover and draining the go ahead jumper to win his sixth NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan was a skinny, determined athlete dominating the competition at Laney High (Wilmington, N.C.).
Before Adrian Peterson was trucking opposing defenses and racking up 2,097 yards in a single season for the Minnesota Vikings he was shining bright under the Friday night lights at Palestine High (Palestine, Texas), averaging 12 yards a carry and scoring 32 touchdowns.
Before any athlete can become legendary they have to lay their foundation in the high school ranks.
Each week I’ll chat with a high-profile athlete’s former coach, mentor, family member, etc., and reminisce about their high school playing days; everything from the greatest moment to the wackiest story.
Today I caught up with No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft Karl-Anthony Towns’ High School coach at St. Joseph’s (Metuchen, N.J.) Dave Turco.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Karl on the court back in high school?
Dave Turco: Wow, that’s tough because he’s had so many of them. I would say it was his freshman year playing in our first state championship. We were down for the majority of the game then started to make a decent comeback and he had a signature four-point play. It was a 25-foot shot and-one to put us up two late in the game and we never relinquished the lead to eventually lead us to the school’s first-ever state championship. It was against Paul VI, who we went on to beat for three-consecutive years for our sectional title.
JJ: What’s your best memory of Karl off the court back then?
DT: Hmm, probably when he interviewed Kevin Durant in Philadelphia for MSG. Just seeing Karl interact with him was cool. He’s so mature.
JJ: What were his talents away from hoops?
DT: Ya know he pretty much excelled at everything he tried. In golf he shot in the 80’s with clubs that weren’t the right size for him. The other thing was the way he handled himself with the media. This kid’s been interviewed thousands of times and he’s never said anything that wasn’t well thought out or dead-on. That’s remarkable at any age. He’s always so well prepared and that’s a testament to his parents.
JJ: He’s got a reputation for being super-competitive; can you think of an instance where you had to tell him to dial it back because that edge was getting the best of him?
DT: Probably just in practice he’d go so hard and, at times, I would tell him to save some for the extra workouts after practice. Especially his senior year we used him in so many different ways and we worried that he would burnout. His work ethic is unparalleled and that competitive edge is just God-given; it’s a great “problem” to have.
JJ: A lot of people think he’ll flourish even more in the NBA, what are your thoughts?
DT: His skill-set is the thing that always amazed me. At Kentucky he wasn’t able to put his full array on display because they needed him to fill a role. But I know at practice Coach Cal allowed him to work on those things. A lot of people saw him at the Nike Hoop Summit so I don’t think NBA general managers are caught off guard. I put him up there with Kevin Love with his versatility. When Karl gets a rebound he’s launching that thing down the floor and his accuracy is just amazing. He’s such an exceptional passer. I think most people will be shocked by what he does in the NBA.
JJ: What was the craziest story you can recall from his recruitment?
DT: Probably when he was going to UNC and Duke for visits and N.C. State found out that we were there and asked us to stop by so we did. Karl actually really liked them too. So we were just going to get something to eat and here comes a news crew. They had been following us and they jumped right out and had the cameras coming out wanting an interview. Funny thing is he had a shirt of a different college team. We had to put a jacket on him and get him covered up really quickly and then he knocked the interview out. That one sticks out.
JJ: Did Minnesota get the right man?
DT: Well, I’m totally biased. I watched him each and every day and I know what he can do. His competitive nature is something that you have to be born with. Karl isn’t the kid who’s just happy to be in the league; his goal is to be one of the greatest to play this game. He’s got the work ethic and the great upbringing from his awesome parents. He’s gonna work hard for everything that he gets. I expect him to be an All Star and, eventually, to be one of the greatest to ever play this game.
Here’s how Karl-Anthony Towns got it done in high school.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY