Towns’ Rookie of the Year award adds to Calipari greatness


Center Karl-Anthony Towns of the Kentucky Wildcats tries to pump-up the crowd during the game against the Florida Gators at Rupp Arena on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky leads Florida 30-27 at the half. Photo by Michael Reaves

Kevin Erpenbeck

Former Kentucky forward Karl-Anthony Towns was unanimously named the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year on Monday.

The big man averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game during his first year in the league. Towns also had 51 double-doubles on the season, the third most in the league. Towns is the third former player of head coach John Calipari to be named Rookie of the Year, and the first UK player to ever win the award.

Towns was one of the most dominating bigs to play at UK and helped his team to the Final Four with a 38-0 record during the 2014-15 season. He was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2015, joining a young but talented roster consisting players like Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammed and Ricky Rubio. Wiggins, who was a star player at Kansas during his collegiate days, won the NBA Rookie of the Year award last year. 

Towns’ quick rise to greatness is one he shares with other former UK bigs. Along with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the three ex-Wildcats are considered by many to be the most dominating forces under the glass in the NBA. All three players participated in this year’s Skills Challenge in Toronto, Canada, as part of the NBA All-Star Weekend. Towns eventually won the competition and shared a triumphant hug with his UK “brothers” before accepting his trophy.

It was a moment that made Calipari cry tears of joy, according to an interview he did for Sporting News.

“Was that unbelievable,” Calipari said. “How about how they pushed (Golden State Warriors forward Draymond) Green out of the way, was that the best? Are you kidding me? It brought tears to my eyes.”

Cousins and Davis had great statistical seasons as well this year, with both players averaging double-doubles on the season (Davis’ year was cut short in late March due to a knee and shoulder injury). Both were named to the All-Star team this year, along with fellow ex-UK star John Wall.

Towns’ quick recognition as a dominant player and his shiny new award just adds to the list of benefits that Calipari can offer to future players. With so many stars of his currently residing in the NBA, Calipari has that extra advantage with him that not many other collegiate coaches have when he goes out recruiting: examples of greatness.

Having already secured Bam Adebayo, one of the top high school forwards in the country, for the 2016-17 season, Calipari will continue to use his advantage provided by his former students to recruit other possible big-time greats, like Marques Bolden perhaps.