Kentucky's Towns proves his credentials at March Madness

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Remember that Kentucky freshman that became the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft?

Oh right — which one?

Wildcats coach John Calipari has made a career of turning one-and-dones into top lottery picks. It's what allows him to continue convincing McDonald's All-Americans that they should join forces and make Lexington home.

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Key to that pitch is the proof; that if you play for Calipari, you have as good a chance as any to hear your name by NBA commissioner Adam Silver on draft night next June.

Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns is his own basketball player.

In fact, he was Kentucky's best player in their season-saving 68-66 win against Notre Dame Saturday. He bullied his way in the post, draining bank shots and bashing dunks on his way to 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting.

He was the only player the Fighting Irish couldn't stop. And Kentucky advanced because of it.

Soon enough, he will have a chance to become another name on the list of top-ranked athletes who have called themselves Wildcats one year, then pro stars the next.

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Power Play

At 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, Towns has the strength that coaches covet in power forwards. He's efficient too, averaging 10 points and almost seven rebounds for this year's national championship favorites, while shooting nearly 56 percent from the field.

Because of Kentucky's talent, Towns hasn't had to be on the court all that long; He played only 21 minutes a game, so his stats are much lower than if he had been required to carry his team more this season.

For comparison, Duke's Jahlil Okafor averages 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds — but he also averages 30 minutes a game for the Blue Devils.

Yet even with the lesser role on offense, Towns has made his presence known.

He had seven blocks against Vanderbilt in January, and six blocks against Florida earlier this March. In a crucial two-point victory against tournament-bound LSU to keep his squad undefeated, Towns had 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks — plus the game-winning score on a gorgeous jump hook.

While his scoring stats don't always jump off the page (he's had only two 20-point games this year), scouts will look at his film and see a daily double-double threat at the next level.

Chasing a legacy

Anthony Davis. John Wall. Derrick Rose.

You recognize them as NBA-royalty. They're also all former Calipari prodigies.

Could Karl-Anthony Towns be the next?

He faces a stiffer challenge then past Kentucky products, simply because Okafor has been so consistently dominant this season.

But scouts love Towns' potential. He's dominated on a big stage. And it just as easily could be his name called first next June.

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