Kentucky can call upon eight healthy McDonald’s All-Americans, plus Willie Cauley-Stein on a roster deep enough with talent to move coach John Calipari to talk of tanks rolling over a hill. But it seems there’s yet one more “player,” until Friday unknown to the Big Blue Nation, at UK’s disposal.

UK basketball, meet “Karlito.”

As Karl-Anthony Towns explained Friday, “Karlito” is an imaginary person who sits on his shoulder and serves as a sounding board.

“I don’t know if it’s self-talk [or] inner dialogue,” Towns said. “I don’t know. But I know one thing. I [will] be talking to myself. I don’t know why. I’ll be having some good conversations with myself.

“If I could really put that in a book, it’d be a best seller.”

A reference to Karlito at Friday’s day-before-the-game news conference led Calipari to quip, “So you interviewed Karl today or did you interview ‘Karlito?'”

Before the mind drifted to “Tony,” the little boy’s imaginary friend in the movie The Shining, Calipari explained the role “Karlito” plays.

“He’s just a good kid, he doesn’t want to talk back to you,” the UK coach said of Towns. “So he turns his head to the side and talks to that little man on his shoulder.

“And after he started doing it, I said, ‘Who are you talking to?!'”

An assistant coach (Calipari could not remember which) answered, “He’s talking to ‘Karlito.'”

Calipari seemed to attribute “Karlito” to a youthful over-reaction to the ups and downs of college basketball, especially for a freshman adjusting to a new level of play.

“They’re 18, 19,” he said. “They play an awful game, and they’re photo-bombing. They’re young kids. They don’t know better. That’s fine.”

I don’t know if it’s self-talk [or] inner dialogue,I don’t know. But I know one thing. I [will] be talking to myself. I don’t know why. I’ll be having some good conversations with myself.
— Karl-Anthony Towns

At Tennessee on Tuesday, Towns picked up two fouls inside the first minute and never got untracked. He scored three points (his low against a Southeastern Conference team).

Towns made “Karlito” seem like an alter ego and target of Calipari’s wrath.

“That’s what Cal always gets on me about,” he said. “So if you hear him say Karlito, he’s not talking to me. He’s talking to my shoulder.”

The thought of Towns and “Karlito” double-teaming an opposing big man in the low post came to mind. Or Towns and “Karlito” playing a two-man game. Perhaps, Towns and “Karlito” can each post double-doubles when Kentucky plays visiting Auburn on Saturday night in Rupp Arena.

Tyler Ulis said other UK players are aware of and puzzled by Karlito (loosely translated as Little Karl, in Spanish).

“He does this thing like where he looks down like he’s talking to somebody, and you never know who he’s talking to,” Ulis said. “When he does something good, he looks down and it’s like he’s talking to himself. Coach Cal calls it ‘Karlito.'”

When asked if he could confirm that “Karlito” is a little guy on Towns’ shoulder, Ulis responded with a qualified, “We’re thinking.”

“Karlito” came as a surprise to the UK player’s father, also named Karl Towns.

“This is news to me,” he said Friday. “I was laughing so hard. It’s definitely funny.”

The elder Towns sounded eager to speak with his son.

“I’m waiting for Karl to call, so I can say, ‘Karl, tell me who is this ‘Karlito’ guy?’ Because I don’t know.”

Towns’ father had one other question he said he wanted to ask:

“Karl, do you have a brother we don’t know about?”

In a telephone conversation filled with two-way laughter, the elder Towns said he had one more reason to intensely watch Kentucky games.

“Now, I have to watch the game to see if I can see it,” he said.

This article was written by Jerry Tipton from The Lexington Herald-Leader and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


While most didn’t know, I’ve been there for 26 games. Not gonna lie, this one feels a little different for some reason. #Karlito#BBN

— Little Karlito (@LittleKarlito) February 21, 2015

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