With the ink barely dried on its top-rated recruiting class for 2013, Kentucky added a pivotal piece to its 2014 class Tuesday when center Karl Towns Jr. (Metuchen, N.J./St. Joseph) committed to the Wildcats.
Previously the nation's No. 1 sophomore in the 2015 ESPN 25, the 6-foot-11 Towns also announced he intends to reclassify to the junior class and graduate a year earlier than expected. He slides into the No. 3 ranking in the 2014 ESPN 60.
"The first thing I have to say is that I'm going to reclassify to the year 2014," Towns, 17, said. "The second decision I have to make is my university. The university I've decided to play for in the year 2014 is the University of Kentucky."
Towns visited Kentucky last month. The Wildcats have been considered the leaders for his commitment since summertime.
Towns had four years of high school eligibility, but he was in good enough academic standing to be able to move up in classification. He's among the latest in a string of elite players to reclassify, but the first to do so from 2015 to 2014. Previous 2014 prospects Andrew Wiggins, Noah Vonleh and Dakari Johnson all moved from the 2014 class to 2013 this fall.
Towns led his team to a state championship as a freshman, averaging 11.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.1 blocked shots per game. Towns also led the team with 63 3-pointers last season and is tracking to break the career school record in that category.
Towns, whose mother is Dominican, was selected to play for the Dominican Republic's national team in Olympic qualifying last summer. The squad, which was coached by Kentucky's John Calipari, consisted of NBA players Al Horford, Charlie Villanueva and Francisco Garcia. Towns was the only high school player selected for the team, which just missed qualifying for the Olympics. He played sparingly in three of the team's six games.
Since taking over at Kentucky in 2009, Calipari has put together four of the last five No. 1 overall recruiting classes. The Wildcats have carved out a niche with the nation's elite prep players, but until now had not taken a commitment from a player this young. Towns is the exception, and there's good reason.
Calipari spent a significant portion of this past summer coaching and interacting with Towns on the Dominican team. The coach was able to accurately gauge Towns' talent, ability, character and work ethic. It's likely that Calipari's first-hand evaluation and unique access to the player gave both parties the confidence to move forward with the choice.
Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Michigan State and Florida were on Towns' list of contenders, but in reality he was UK's to lose.
Towns has a unique skill set. Blessed with great size and agility, he's a strong perimeter player, especially for a big man. Also a shot blocker and rebounder, Towns is a unique big who'll be projected to bring an impactful scoring touch to the Kentucky lineup as a freshman.
St. Joseph has a rich history of producing elite talent. Jay Williams was the nation's No. 1 high school player as a senior at the school before heading to Duke, while Andrew Bynum went directly from St. Joseph into the NBA draft and wound up being selected by the Los Angeles Lakers.
"As good as he is as a basketball player, he's a better person," Dave Turco, St. Joseph's coach, said of Towns. "Basketball-wise, to be able to have the skill set he does ... and now his body is maturing. After working with the Dominican team, he's got an interior game and his body is improving."