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Before He was the NBA’s Top Draft Choice, Karl-Anthony Towns was the Big K-A-T in Piscataway Little League

At nearly seven feet tall and 250-pounds, you wouldn’t immediately picture the NBA’s top overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, fielding grounders, shagging fly balls and hurling strikes, but he did just that as a Little Leaguer® in his hometown of Piscataway. N.J.

In 2008, Rob Hollan, then manager of Piscataway Little League’s Major Division Orioles, nicknamed the lanky fifth grader Big K-A-T. Nearly a decade later, Mr. Towns, now 19, was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the first pick in the 2015 NBA draft after one season at the University of Kentucky.

“At 10 years old, he was looking me eye-to-eye, and wearing size 13 shoes,” Mr. Hollan remembered. “Karl, Jr., was like a big teddy bear. He was quiet, laid back, and was a great teammate. There was never any negativity out of the kid, and he loved being on the field.” After hearing his named called, Mr. Towns was welcomed to the NBA by the league’s Commissioner Adam Silver, a fellow Little League graduate. As he sauntered across the stage to shake hands and receive an obliging hug from the Commissioner, Mr. Hollan said he felt like a proud father. “It makes me feel good to see how he has grown into a proud young man, and to know that like any other kid in Little League, he had the chance to take away life lessons from the experience,” he said.

Mr. Towns, the Southeastern Conference’s 2015 Freshman of the Year, is considered to be a talented shot-blocker, and rebounder, with a solid back-to-the-basket, low-post scoring potential. Mr. Hollan said that despite being 6-foot-5 before the age of 13, he could see that Big K-A-T was destined for greatness because he had a wonderful attitude and perspective.

“At each practice and game, Karl, Jr. soaked up the atmosphere, and was always willing to learn new things,” said Mr. Hollan, who currently volunteers as Piscataway Little League’s Safety Officer. “He had a looping swing, and when he got a hold of one, look out. As a senior at Piscataway Tech High School, Mr. Towns averaged 20.9 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 6.2 blocks per game. After winning three New Jersey state titles, Towns graduated with a 3.96 grade-point average.

“I said to myself: ‘He has possibility of going places,’” said Mr. Hollan. “His parents (Karl, Sr. and Jacqueline) raised him to be successful. I am sure he appreciates the opportunities he has now.”

During his only season at Kentucky, he averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 21.1 minutes per game, and helped the Wildcats win their first 38 games. In Mr. Town’s final collegiate game, Kentucky lost in the national semifinals to the University of Wisconsin.

Mr. Towns has said that he is interested in medicine and business, and that he plans to get his degree from Kentucky in a few years. As for the foreseeable future, the NBA’s top rookie prospect will have his attention clearly focused on taking the T-Wolves to a championship.

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