Towns is talk of the town

Centre Karl-Anthony Towns has the attributes that the Timberwolves seek in a bid to turn around their fortunes. They have not advanced to the play-offs since 2004.
Centre Karl-Anthony Towns has the attributes that the Timberwolves seek in a bid to turn around their fortunes. They have not advanced to the play-offs since 2004.PHOTO: REUTERS

Minnesota use 1st pick to snap him up, Bhamara's 1st India-born choice

NEW YORK - Teen big man Karl-Anthony Towns was chosen by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the first pick in Thursday's National Basketball Association Draft while Satnam Singh Bhamara made history as the first India-born selection.

Towns averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots a game last season for a University of Kentucky squad who went unbeaten until losing to Wisconsin in the national college tournament semi-finals.

"This is what you live for," said the 2.11m-tall Towns.

"I'm going to go in right away and be as versatile as I can be. I'm coming with a winning attitude.

"I'm not coming to look for individual success. I'm coming to look for team success."

Towns, 19, is considered an ideal modern NBA big man with a combination of dominant defence, low-post scoring brilliance and an outside shot - qualities craved by Minnesota who have not made the play-offs since 2004.

Bhamara, a 19-year-old centre from a small Punjab village, went 52nd overall to the Dallas Mavericks, the same club who in 2001 made Wang Zhizhi the first Chinese player in an NBA game.

Bhamara, a 2.18m big man, became the first player in a decade taken after not featuring for a US college or overseas pro team.

He instead competed for the IMG Academy squad.

Likely bound for a developmental team to hone his skills, he follows in the footsteps of Canadian-born Sim Bhullar, who became the NBA's first player of Indian descent after playing for the Sacramento Kings last April.

Bhamara could open the door for the NBA into cricket-loving India, much the way Yao Ming did for the league in China.

"I think I can open the door for everyone to come here and play so it's good for India and all the players, it is good for me and my country," Bhamara told the Washington Post after a workout with the Washington Wizards earlier this year.

The Los Angeles Lakers landed Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell with the second pick while centre Jahlil Okafor was taken third by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis, who played for Spain's Sevilla last season, was selected fourth overall by the New York Knicks, whose host-city fans booed loudly when the choice was announced after already enduring a 17-65 season.

Porzingis became only the second player from his homeland to be taken in the draft and could become only the third Latvian to play in the NBA.

"It was my dream to play for the Knicks," he said. "Hopefully, I can be part of something special.

"These people don't know me, might think I'm soft, European, a bust. I'm different. It's my passion that sets me apart."

Since Yao was taken first overall by Houston in 2002, there have been 19 international players taken with lottery-decided picks and none has become an All-Star.

Orlando selected fifth and the Magic took Croatian swingman Mario Hezonja, who played last season at Barcelona, making him the highest-ever pick from his homeland.

Another Kentucky big man, centre Willie Cauley-Stein, was taken sixth by Sacramento.

He was among a record 13 US college freshmen taken in the first round.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'TOWNS IS TALK OF THE TOWN'. Print Edition | Subscribe