NEW YORK — Karl-Anthony Towns often gets to enjoy a bit of home whenever he plays in New York. Towns, who grew up in New Jersey, will have family and friends attend while he's in town, but this trip to New York featured a little extra helping of home.
On Tuesday, the Timberwolves center attended as his high school, St. Joseph, inducted him into its hall of fame. It will retire his No. 44 jersey.
"I didn't know how special it would be to me until I was actually walking into my high school again after some time," Towns said. "To hear the screams and yells and voices of my fellow alumni and to hear how much they respect me, it brought goosebumps to me."
On Wednesday, the Timberwolves practiced at Kean University in New Jersey. That is where Towns' former high school coach Dave Turco now coaches and where the floor is named in honor of Towns' late mother, Jacqueline, who died of complications from COVID-19 in April 2020.
Throughout the past 18 months, Towns has been open about the emotional toll the death of his mother and other family members to COVID has had on him. How it affected his state of mind and his desire to play basketball. There were times last season Towns didn't feel much like playing, and before the season he said he wasn't sure if he'd ever find joy in playing basketball again because he associated it so much with his mother watching and enjoying him play.
Towns said his love of the game has returned.
"I found myself in the game again," Towns said. "I found my why again. My mother was always my why. That was the reason I played ball. I had fun playing basketball. Just knowing how much she loved watching me play basketball made me want to play basketball. When I lost her, I didn't really have a why playing basketball. It was kind of just something that I did."
Towns said his other family members and his girlfriend helped him rekindle that spark for basketball.
"This offseason was great for me on multiple levels," Towns said. "It allowed me to realign myself and realize why I do what I do and I took the time to really learn myself again, readjust myself. Get right back on the path.
"I was off the path and I didn't really know what it was, but I'm happy that I got to a point like this where I can smile again on the court, find myself enjoying lacing the shoes up."
At media day in September in the wake of Gersson Rosas' firing, Towns detailed all the unusual circumstances he found himself in during his time with the Wolves. Many coaches, many front-office changes. Teammates like Jimmy Butler calling him out, and then his family's battles with COVID. The constant turnover and lack of winning as a result has fans on edge that Towns might go the way of other stars in the NBA and ask for a trade.
Towns has always said he wants to build a winner in Minnesota, and as the Wolves got ready to wrap their preseason in Brooklyn, he seemed in a jovial and content mood as he addressed the media from the gym named for his mom.
"He's been great. Happy," coach Chris Finch said. "Looks like he's really enjoying his basketball right now, his teammates. … He's been nothing but a joy for me to work with, but you can see him getting back to just the business of basketball and I think he believes in this team, his teammates and they have supported him."
Being back in his high school gym the previous night also brought back fond memories, such as how his mom used to sit by the floor. Before the Wolves start their next season, Towns' seventh, he was able to spend some time with family dwelling on the past. The pain may still be there, but the good memories have also resurfaced.
"That was just bringing back memories of how much my mom enjoyed walking into St. Joe's, giving me my little apple juice and doing these little things that she just always did to make every game special and make every moment special," Towns said. "Obviously she was there in spirit. … It takes a village and a support system to make greatness happen. She was in essence my village."