CRAWFORD | A long-form conversation with UK's Karl-Anthony Towns - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | A long-form conversation with UK's Karl-Anthony Towns

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CLEVELAND (WDRB) — One of the best things that happens during the Elite Eight is you get extended interview time with the players.

Kentucky freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns talked for 20 minutes with reporters today, and I think reading his comments in full gives a little bit more insight into him as a person and player.

Some of the questions are trivial, and some are serious, but all of Towns answers let you know a little bit more about him, like how he answers a question about the NBA Draft, or his views on his teammates. As usual, his questions get better toward the end of the session.

So here's his Elite Eight Q&A. Some of the questions are paraphrased, but Towns' answers are verbatim.

Q: DO YOU GUYS FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU PLAY YOUR BEST, YOU'RE GOING TO WIN REGARDLESS.

KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS:
Mostly what we start out with is defense. We always look for how we can disrupt their offense. When we're playing our best, our defense feeds into our offense.

Q: HOW MUCH DID COACH CAL COACHING THE DOMINICAN TEAM INFLUENCE YOUR DECISION TO COME TO KENTUCKY.

TOWNS:
For me, the Dominican team was a great opportunity I had, but had no effect on me coming to Kentucky. It was just a chance for me to play for a great coach and compete for my mother's country playing the game I love. That just made me get better as a player, and allow me to have the ability to even get a scholarship to a place like the University of Kentucky.

Q: WHAT ABOUT CALIPARI'S STYLE DID YOU LIKE?

TOWNS:
I just liked that he was all about the players. I thought he was always about the players, never about himself. Always thinking of us and how he could make our lives better. 

Q: ARE YOU MOTIVATED AFTER STRUGGLING AGAINST WVU?

TOWNS:
Definitely. I mean, you have a game like that and you want to come back strong the next game. I don't know how many players can say that they struggled like I did last night and win by 39. I mean, that's the beauty of this team. Even when one person has a bad night you still have everyone else behind you. That's why I love my brothers. They're always behind me, always got my back, and I know they expect me to come back tomorrow.

Q: HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO HANDLE A TEAM LIKE NOTRE DAME. THEY RUN FIVE SHOOTERS OUT THERE, BUT YOU GUYS ARE SO TALL DO YOU WORRY ABOUT TRYING TO KEEP UP WITH THEM?

TOWNS:
Like I said, defensively we're going to have to set up a game plan, and you just need to execute it. Whatever that game plan is, it's all about executing. It's like boxing. Some of the greatest fighters always stay to their game plan, they don't let one punch effect their whole game plan.

Q: WITHOUT REVEALING TRADE SECRETS, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH WHAT NOTRE DAME CAN DO AS A THREE-POINT SHOOTING TEAM?

TOWNS:
You just try to make the shots that they shoot contested and if anything run them off. You do what you have to do to make the shots as hard as possible, especially when they're all shooting trees.

Q: IN THE ELITE EIGHT, IS MOTIVATION EASY?

TOWNS:
You know, it's the NCAA Tournament. Everyone is fighting. You have to fight or you go home. You don't need much more motivation than that.

Q: EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT YOUR DEFENSE AND THEIR OFFENSE. COULD THIS GAME HINGE ON HOW THEIR DEFENSE FARES AGAINST YOUR OFFENSE?

TOWNS:
It definitely could. But like I said, I think our defense translates to our offense. If we start out defensively strong, our offense will pick up the pieces.

Q: PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THEIR SHOOTING BUT THEY ALSO HAVE AUGUSTE INSIDE. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HIS GAME?

TOWNS:
I just know he's a great player and he's effective inside and he's able to change games around. So, today in practice, we'll start getting ready for all they have to give to us.

Q: HOW IS HE ABLE TO CHANGE?

TOWNS:
His ability to rebound the ball and score.

Q: WITH A GREAT OFFENSE FACING A GREAT DEFENSE, HOW DO THOSE GAMES GENERALLY PLAY OUT?

TOWNS:
You never know. It's one of those times you've got to go out there and just play. You never know how the offense could be that night. You never know how the defense could be that night. We've just got to go out there and fight.

Q: HOW ANXIOUS ARE YOU TO GO OUT AND HAVE A BETTER GAME TOMORROW?

TOWNS:
 Anxious. You know, you have a game like I had yesterday you just want to come back strong.

Q: DEVIN SAYS THE 36-AND-WON TWEET WAS HIS IDEA AND DAKARI SAID IT WAS REALLY HIS AND DEVIN SAW IT ON HIS PHONE AND TWEETED IT. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?

TOWNS:
I have no idea how that went. I didn't even know he had a Tweet up. But, it was creative.

Q: WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER FROM THE LOSS IN THE BAHAMAS?

TOWNS:
We lost. (Laughter). You don't want to have that feeling. That's one of the things we try to not have to deal with. That Bahamas trip taught us everything from how to gel better together to how  to win games to how to play well and how we look when we're playing very well. And how a loss feels. And that's the biggest thing. We came into the season and didn't want to have that feeling again.

Q: DO YOU USE IT AS MOTIVATION OR PRETEND IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

TOWNS:
We use it as motivation. We still have it in our mind that we had that one loss. You have to think of it like that. Maybe for a lot of people that thinks it shouldn't count, because it's just a preseason game. But we take everything seriously.

Q: YOU GUYS WERE PRETTY GOOD DEFENSIVELY FROM THE START, BUT WHAT IMPROVEMENTS HAVE MADE YOU A GREAT DEFENSIVE TEAM?

TOWNS:
I think the big thing for us defensively is the timing. We've been able to block more shots, get to spots better, pick-and-roll defense has been tremendously upgraded since the beginning of the season, movement, talking, and just being able to use our length better. We've been able to utilize our height much more effectively now, during this part of the season, than we were early in the season. And I think all that just contributes to our success.

Q: WHAT HAS GONE INTO YOU UTILIZING HEIGHT BETTER THAN OTHER TEAMS?

TOWNS:
I think it's just timing. We have a better feel for each other, and we know what to expect from each other. Pick-and-roll defense, just taking more steps and being able to be in better spots to help, and just getting more used to the defensive aspects of the game. Our IQ has gotten a lot better during the season as we've learned each other's traits and what we're able and not able to do.

Q: PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT KENTUCKY RIGHT NOW AND EITHER WANTING TO SEE YOU MAKE HISTORY OR WANTING TO SEE YOU LOSE. DO YOU FEEL THAT PRESSURE OF THE ENTIRE COUNTRY RIGHT NOW?

TOWNS:
It's hard for us to worry about that, because we're so worried about what we can control, and that's making sure we play well and go out and try the best we can. We've been doing a great job of that so far this season, just making sure that we worry about what's in the family. That's who we can control.

Q: HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENT PLAYER ARE YOU NOW FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON AND WHAT AREAS HAVE YOU IMPROVED?

TOWNS:
On the low post I'm a much better player. Defensively my IQ is a lot better. I've been able to make the make moves and not always have to use my height as a getaway card. Just being able to play much smarter, more physical, and I think that's the biggest thing. As I got more used to the physicality I got a lot better.

Q: YOU'RE FOCUSED, OBVIOUSLY, ON WINNING A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. BUT YOUR NAME HAS BEEN MENTIONED AS A POSSIBLE NO. 1 PICK IN THE DRAFT. IS THAT IMPORTANT TO YOU, WHENEVER YOU GO, TO MAYBE BE THE NO. 1 PICK? HOW MUCH IS THAT A GOAL OF YOURS?

TOWNS:
You know what, it's so hard to think of stuff like that when you're so into the moment like we are as a team, we just worry about what we can control. Right now, I can't control that. I can't do anything about that right now. What I can control is helping us to have the best chance to win every game we play in the NCAA Tournament. If the time ever was to come when I'm blessed with the opportunity to have a decision like that, but right now, we're in the NCAA Tournament, in the Elite Eight, not many people have that chance to say that, and we want to continue to play and say we did something special.

Q: DO YOU REMEMBER THE LARGEST DEFICIT YOU FACED THIS SEASON?

TOWNS:
No, I couldn't tell you. For us, sometimes, it's just about playing the game, we don't even worry about what the score is. We don't even look up. We just feel like if we do what we're supposed to do we should be winning.

Q: IF I TOLD YOU IT WAS AGAINST COLUMBIA, WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO THAT?

TOWNS:
Well, that's early in the season. That's some growing pains we had to go through. We did a great job of coming back from that, and just fighting, just come back and compete at a high level when we needed it the most.

Q: DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU THAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING YOU'RE FACING THE BEST OFFENSIVE TEAM IN THE COUNTRY? YOU GUYS SEEM TO BE DOWNPLAYING THAT.

TOWNS:
We know how great Notre Dame is. They're a great offensive team. We just need to go out there and do what we need to do defensively. It's just going to come down to how we play energy-wise and how we play defensively.

Q: THEY SAY THAT CHAMPIONS NEED SOMEONE TO BRING OUT THEIR BEST. AFTER LAST NIGHT, DO YOU FEEL LIKE A TEAM LIKE NOTRE DAME COULD BRING OUT AN EVEN GREATER LEVEL OF DEFENSE FROM YOU GUYS?

TOWNS:
I think they could, because of the fact of how great they are offensively, we need to match them offensively. We need to get ready today. We're going to have a great practice and get ready for tomorrow.

Q: BEFORE THE CINCINNATI, THERE WAS THE SUGGESTION THAT THIS TEAM MIGHT BE SUSCEPTIBLE TO A PHYSICAL TEAM. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE TEAM HIT ANOTHER GEAR EMOTIONALLY AFTER THAT?

TOWNS:
I think the biggest thing for us was we knew what we had to fix and we had some great practices. Ever since Saturday of last week we've been able to practice, Monday, Tuesday and get ready for everything we had to do. When you have practices like we have, it's a blessing to be able to go back to the drawing board and fix what we need to fix.

Q: DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE TEAM HAS GOTTEN PROGRESSIVELY STRONGER OVER THE COURSE OF THE SEASON, OR DID IT COME FROM SPECIFIC MOMENTS LIKE AGAINST OLE MISS OR A&M OR LSU?

TOWNS:
Those games just allowed us to become stronger. We've been able to deal with a lot of adversity. There were some tough times, especially in games, and we've been able to come out with a W. Those moments like that are moments we needed, especially when you come to a tournament like this with so many great teams and so much great talent. You need those games because you never know when you need to go back to them.

Q: HOW MUCH OF AN “OLD MAN GAME” DOES TREY HAVE?

TOWNS:
That's what he said he has? Oh my gosh. (Laughs). Uhhhh, I think he's quicker than that. I think Trey is just so talented. You saw yesterday, his agility, his mobility, able to finish at the basket, to shoot mid-range jump shots effectively, it's one of those things, when you have a person like that on your team, you can't be more blessed.

Q: HOW MUCH FUN IS IT JUST TO GET OUT THERE AND PLAY? YOU HAVE SO MUCH TALENT THAT PRACTICE HAS BEEN FUN, CASING PERFECTION. IT HAS TO BE ALMOST LIKE A DREAM TEAM FOR YOU GUYS?

TOWNS:
Yeah, very fun, but very competitive. Practices are some of the hardest moments we have. The fact that you're going against each other, you know, I just think about all the times we've had in practice where we compete so much that it gets out of control. That's the thing I think this team does, we worry so much about each other when we're on the court, but when we're practicing we're worrying about getting better. That's what's made us so successful, how great our practices are.

Q: DO YOU RELISH THESE MOMENTS? YOU DON'T KNOW IF YOU HAVE ONE MORE GAME TOGETHER OR THREE MORE WITH THIS GROUP, BUT ARE YOU TRYING TO TAKE IT ALL IN.

TOWNS:
 It's funny you say that. I'm in my room and thinking, ‘Wow, I've been so blessed to have the team that I have. The brothers that I have, the relationships that I've made.' You know, you just sit back sometimes and say, wow, not many people ever get the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament and I have. And not only have I been able to play in the NCAA Tournament, but I have the greatest brothers that God could give, and I'm just blessed to have these moments with them. You never know when it's going to end, but you never want it to.

Q: EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT YOUR DEFENSE AND THEIR OFFENSE. ARE THEY SELLING SHORT YOUR OFFENSE, WHICH SEEMS TO KEEP IMPROVING?

TOWNS:
I think that the thing with us is defense has to translate to offense. If we play defense the way we know how to play, the offense should come along with it.

Q: AT LEAST, THIS GAME SHOULD LOOK LIKE A GOOD SHOW. BAD OFFENSE IS BAD FOR COLLEGE BASKETBALL, APPARENTLY. ARE YOU WORRIED YOU MIGHT MAKE IT UGLY AGAIN?

TOWNS:
We're not worried about that. What we can control is we go out there and execute our game plan. You know, you never know how the game is going to go. We did a great job last night of just executing the game plan and West Virginia just didn't make a lot of shots, but you never know if that's going to happen.

Q: IS IT FUN TO CHASE PERFECTION? IT HASN'T BEEN DONE IN SO LONG.

TOWNS:
When we came into the postseason we didn't know we were going to be perfect. You never expect that. We came in just knowing that every game we were going to go into we worried about that game. We went in with the mindset that if we do what we're supposed to do, we're going to win. Now it's funny that we have to chase perfection to reach the goal — to win the national title. Of course, it's a lot of fun. Especially when you have the group of brothers like I have. That's what makes it fun. It's not a fact about, you know, the goal itself, but the journey you take and the people you do it with.

Q: YOU WEREN'T HERE LAST YEAR, BUT DO YOU HAVE ANY SENSE OF HOW MUCH THIS MEANS TO WILLIE AFTER HAVING TO SIT LAST YEAR?

TOWNS:
I think this means a lot to him. He didn't get to experience it last year. Who knows what would've happened if he was playing. He has a chip on his shoulder, because he wants to prove that we could win it.

Q: YOU'VE USED THE WORD ‘BROTHERS' QUITE A BIT. HOW MUCH OF THIS IS JUST ABOUT BEING ABLE TO PLAY ANOTHER GAME WITH YOUR TEAMMATES?

TOWNS:
I think that's the biggest joy I have, the fact that I still get to play with my brothers. I mean, like I said, we love each other tremendously. It's just one of those things, it's not about playing another game, it's about who you're playing another game with. I've been given an opportunity to play another game with my brothers, and get to lace up my shoes and go out and play one more time, and hopefully more.

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