The Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award is a prestigious honor. LeBron James and Peyton Manning are not exactly scrubs when it comes to their athletic accomplishments, but my favorite aspect of the committee’s voting process is that they also honor academic excellence and community involvement.
The 7-foot center Karl Towns Jr., out of St. Joseph’s High School (NJ), can now add his name to a truly elite list. After receiving the Gatorade award, Towns made a moving speech about the support of his family, the court his father built for him, and the sacrifices his mother made. You can check it out below, and you might notice that he was introduced by three amazing athletes I was lucky enough to interview in Bradley Beal, Steven Jackson and Brandon Knight.
Keep an eye out for content on each of that trio later this week once all the interviews have been transcribed or uploaded. If you didn’t check out the beautiful video above, posted by the lovely Max Preps, then shame on you, but I will also feed you a bit of an excerpt below. It is pretty hard to watch repeatedly without getting sentimental, because the emotions that he is expressing are so raw.
“Growing up you don’t ever see yourself really being in this position. Just like always, I gotta thank my parents,” Towns said. “I got to thank my mother always cooking for me. You know, I’m a big guy, I need to eat a lot. I just got to thank my Dad also. Growing up was real hard. You had to work real hard, and I just thank you always taking the time out for me to give me that orange basketball. That little time. When you were working four jobs just to be able to take care of me. I’ll never forget the day when you told me you was going to take all your savings, and you was going to put a granite court in the backyard for me. And we didn’t have enough money for a real hoop, but you made sure that you built one from hand so I could practice, and I can’t thank you enough for that. You are one of the biggest reasons why I am holding this trophy and this hardware right now.”
I know that was a long chunk, but all of it was important to hear if you are to understand the young man’s motivation. ESPN analyst Hannah Storm hosted the awards, and she commented after the center’s speech that he might give Kevin Durant, who also recently made an emotional speech about family earlier this year, a run for his money.
The center will join the loaded Kentucky Wildcats next season, and head coach John Calipari has set the expectations sky high. Will the big man average more than six blocks a game like he did in high school? That is not likely, however, Calipari and the Wildcats are getting an absolute jewel of a basketball player; the best part is that the center might even be a better student.