Former UK star grieves as mother dies from coronavirus

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Karl-Anthony Towns/CNN

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, the mother of Minnesota Timberwolves center and former Kentucky star Karl-Anthony Towns, died Monday due to complications from COVID-19 after more than a month of fighting the virus.

The Timberwolves made the announcement via the Towns family, which requested privacy. Karl Towns Sr., the father of the two-time All-Star player, was also hospitalized with the virus but has since recovered.

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A native of the Dominican Republic, Cruz-Towns was a fixture at Timberwolves games from the start of Karl-Anthony Towns’ NBA career in 2015.

Towns was a member of the 2014-15 Kentucky basketball team that went undefeated in the regular season but lost to Wisconsin in the Final Four. He was selected first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2015 NBA Draft and he still plays for them.

“Jackie was many things to many people — a wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend,” the statement from the Towns family said. “She was an incredible source of strength; a fiery, caring, and extremely loving person who touched everyone she met. Her passion was palpable, and her energy will never be replaced.”

The family expressed gratitude to the “warriors” at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia and JFK Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey, the hospitals where she received care.

After his parents first felt ill at their home in New Jersey, Towns and his sister urged them to seek immediate medical attention and be tested for the virus.

Towns posted an emotional video on his Instagram account on March 24, revealing his mother was in a medically induced coma while imploring people to stay home to help stop the spread of the virus.

“This disease is real,” he said in that Instagram post. “This disease needs not to be taken lightly. Please protect your families, your loved ones, your friends, yourself.”

“We can beat this, but we need to take every precaution, ” he wrote. “I am sharing my story in hopes everyone will stay at home. We need more medical equipment and we need to help those medical personnel who are on the front lines.

“Thank you to the medical staff who are helping my mom. You are all the true heroes. Praying for all of us at this difficult time,” he concluded.

The East Coast has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, with a death toll in New York state alone that has topped 10,000.

The Timberwolves expressed their condolences for the woman they considered part of their family.

“As Karl’s number one fan, Jackie provided constant and positive energy for him and was beloved by our entire organization and staff at Target Center,” the team said.

Towns made a $100,000 donation to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for COVID-19 testing.