By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember how Kentucky coach John Calipari is always talking about servant leadership and how important he believes that is to instill in his basketball players at UK. The players annually are involved in various service projects because of Calipari and often that service/philanthropy continues after they have left college.
Former UK All-American Karl-Anthony Towns, the top pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and NBA Rookie of the Year, certainly demonstrated a desire to help others with what he did for the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School wrestling team this season.
Public schools in Lexington are responsible for raising funds for uniforms, tournament fees and other expenses. For some teams, that can be a financial challenge and has been for the Dunbar wrestling team. Dunbar had been wearing the same singlets for wrestling events for at least eight years when Towns found out about the situation and reached out saying he wanted to help.
Help? He offered to pay for new singlets (home and away), sweatshirts, T-shirts and shorts.
“I found about the team’s needs through Twitter actually,” said Towns. “Dan Burch (who had a son on the team) reached out and let me know that the team needed new uniforms because they have been wearing old uniforms, and I immediately knew I wanted to help in any way I could.”
It was easy for Towns, who won the 3-point competition at the recent NBA All-Star Game, to want to help.
“When I was young, I received most of my clothes as hand-me-downs from my church,” Towns, a NBA All-Star, said. “I knew what it was like to not have the newest uniforms or shoes. Being able to give back to young athletes and helping them feel more confident is an honor for me.”
Towns did not seek any attention for his gesture. He signed a five-year, $158 million contract with Minnesota and was happy he could financially help youngsters.
Duncan Taylor, president of Taylor Made Farm, also assisted by paying the team’s tournament fees for the entire 2021-22 season.
The wrestlers decided to thank Towns and Taylor by giving back with the help of Jason Caudill of Dad’s Favorite Deli. They made sandwiches/soups for the Hope Center, a homeless shelter in Lexington. The wrestlers did it in honor of Jackie Towns, Karl’s mother who passed away at age 59 from COVID in 2020, and plan to do it every year.
“I was so moved by the team’s gesture to give back in honor of my mother. My mom was such a giving woman who always went the extra mile to help those in need, so this was such a kind thing for the team to do,” Towns said.
Towns doesn’t like to draw attention to himself for what he does to help others.
“It’s really important to give back in many different ways,” Towns said. “Sometimes people know about it, sometimes they don’t but I continue to reach out to communities in need on different levels. I am lucky to have the platform I do as an NBA player to be able to connect with those in need all year long.”
One wrestler, Jaris Bloom-Doyle, qualified for the state tourney and finished in the top 10 wearing his new gear donated by Towns last weekend.