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Karl Anthony Towns: ''It would be great to help the Dominican Republic get to the next level''
MINNEAPOLIS (FIBA Basketball World Cup Americas Qualifiers) - The first time Karl-Anthony Towns wore the Dominican Republic jersey in an international competition was at the Centrobasket Championship in 2012, when he was 16 years old.
The versatile 7ft (2.13m) big man did not get a lot of playing time but the competition gave the teenager an opportunity to learn from a player who would instantly become a role model and mentor - Al Horford.
Almost six years on and Towns himself hopes to become a mentor to up-and-coming stars from the Dominican Republic.
He spoke with FIBA.basketball.
When it comes to looking up to others for inspiration, we often see you talking with your fellow countryman Al Horford. What is he to you?
He is one of my role models, a mentor, like a big brother for me. He has been very close to me since I was a kid and we talk pretty often as he is a guy with a lot of experience and a good friend after all these years. Al is an amazing example for the kids of Dominican Republic. He is a great role model for the basketball players back on the island and all around the USA. He has always given me a lot of precious advice about how to be a great NBA player, and also talks to me about the routine, work ethic and the game. He is definitely one of the most important people in my basketball journey.
How do you feel about being - like Al Horford - a role model for the kids and youth in the Dominican Republic?
I love it. I am very proud to be Dominican and I am happy to be a role model for the kids back on the island. My connection with the country is deep and it's important for me to show that I work hard and can maybe inspire kids from the island and kids from a Dominican background living in the USA for example. Our island is full of great talented athletes and having some of them in the best leagues in the world, not only in the NBA but also in Europe, is a great example of achievement for the youth of a country.
"I WOULD LIKE TO PLAY FOR THE NATIONAL TEAM AGAIN AT SOME POINT. I DON'T KNOW WHEN IT WILL HAPPEN BUT IT'S DEFINITELY SOMETHING I WOULD LIKE TO DO AGAIN" Towns
Can you think back to the first time you received a call to play for the national team in 2012.
That was a great moment for sure. I was also pretty young but so proud to be called to represent the Dominican Republic at the senior level. Sometimes people ask me how I chose to play for the Dominican Republic instead of the USA but I made the right decision and I'm happy with it. I learned a lot by playing with so many talented guys and some veterans full of experience. I haven't been able to play for the national team in a while, but it's in my mind and I would like to compete and help the guys in the near future. It would be great to help the guys make it to international tournaments.
At that age, what was it that you liked the most about playing for the national team?
I will say the pride of playing for a national team and the spirit of camaraderie. You represent millions of people from the island and the entire Dominican community around the world. So that's a very interesting experience both on a sporting and human level. I felt so much love and support from the fans every time I wore the jersey and it's a responsibility to play well and fight for the win every time you wear the national team jersey.
Have you followed the Dominican Republic's campaign so far in the Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019?
Yes they have been doing well and I expect them to do well as we have a lot of talent in the Dominican Republic. I am happy to see that the campaign is going so well so far and we show the world that we have a great national team. People only see the NBA guys like Al or myself, but the Dominican Republic's national team is more than that as we have plenty of talented guys playing in Europe and in college basketball. In the last couple of years, we have been able to show what we can do and we have to keep our progression going and stay competitive.
"PLAYING IN THE WORLD CUP OR IN THE OLYMPICS WOULD, FOR SURE, BE A VERY INTERESTING EXPERIENCE" Towns
You haven't been with the national team for a while now. Are you planning on playing for your country anytime soon?
It's in my mind and I would like to play for the national team again at some point. I don't know when it will happen but it's definitely something I would like to do again. I really enjoyed the first experiences I had with the national team and I am still very young (22) so I still have a lot to do in my career, including hopefully some great experiences with the national team.
If the Dominican Republic qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, would it be a goal of yours to go to China and help the team compete on the biggest world stage?
I'm very intrigued by the topic and I often think about it. Playing in the World Cup or in the Olympics would, for sure, be a very interesting experience. In due time, as we are still pretty far away from the start of those competitions, I will make the best decision. It would be great to help Dominican Republic get to the next level and be a very competitive team.
Do you have any dreams or goals with the national team?
Absolutely. For example, helping the national team grow and helping the development of basketball back on the island, but also competing in the Olympics with the Dominican Republic national team. But for now I'm just trying to represent my culture, the Dominican Republic and make my fellow compatriots proud of what I am doing in the best league in the world. I am proud to be a flag bearer alongside Al Horford. We're very proud and happy to be role models for the Dominican youth.