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Cousins a fit within Kentucky hoops family

Cousins a fit within Kentucky hoops family

Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 5:40 pm
By: By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — John Wall looked over at Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins perched on a chair talking to reporters after the Wildcats beat Austin Peay this month and just shook his head.
While the rest of the Wildcats were dressed in sweatsuits, Cousins added a little flair to his outfit, throwing on a Russian-style winter hat and thick black sunglasses. The 6-foot-11 freshman center dubbed it his “Peter Parker” look.
“That’s just DeMarcus,” Wall said. “He’s always doing crazy stuff like that.”
It’s all a part of being “Big Cuz,” or “Boogie” or “Dancing Bear” or any of the other half-dozen nicknames the easygoing Cousins has embraced during his short time on campus.
Coach John Calipari has no problem with Cousin’s outsized personality. He’s dealt with his fair share of characters during his lengthy coaching career.
Few of them, however, have Cousins’ distinct skill set. Cousins has been unstoppable at times for the third-ranked Wildcats (13-0), who will try to match the school’s best start in 32 years when they host Hartford (2-9) today.
Cousins is averaging 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds. Eye-popping numbers considering he plays less than 19 minutes a game.
And that’s the problem.
Calipari’s biggest challenge with Cousins isn’t his free-throw shooting — which has gone from atrocious to pretty good in the last month — but finding ways to keep him on the floor.
If Cousins isn’t getting into early foul trouble then he’s hyperventilating because he gets a little too keyed up before tip-off. Gone are the AAU days when Cousins had three minutes to get ready. The lengthy pregame warmups at Kentucky are almost too long.
“You can get so hyped before a game that it can wear you out,” he said. “I just need to stay relaxed and calm.”
It isn’t easy.
Cousins is an emotional player. He sometimes holds his head in his hands after he’s called for a foul and will swing his arms in anger when a shot attempt rolls off the rim.
It’s all part of the maturation process. The progress has been uneven at best. Cousins appeared to be making progress over the last few weeks, then he picked up a personal foul and a technical less than three minutes into last week’s win over Long Beach State. He spent the next 17 minutes on the bench and the game was tied at halftime.
Yet rather than pout when he returned to the floor, Cousins became re-energized, keying a second-half surge as the Wildcats pulled away. He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds in just 13 minutes.
Cousins admits he has a bit of a split personality. Off the court, he’s carefree and actually acts like a freshman compared to the more businesslike approach of classmates Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
On the court, he can be surly and impetuous, often at the same time.
“I guess it’s just another side of me,” Cousins said. “That’s the ‘Big Cuz’ side of me on the court. I can be mean. ‘Big Cuz’ is the ballplayer. When the lights go on, you get ‘Big Cuz,’ when it is time to chill and relax you get DeMarcus.”
Calipari is hoping Cousins can find a way to balance the two. He likes “Big Cuz” just fine, but “Big Cuz” could use a little more DeMarcus when he’s on the floor.
There have been glimpses of it. Calipari praised Cousins’ effort during “Camp Cal,” a boot camp of sorts Calipari instituted over the Christmas break. Cousins — never one to run all-out all the time — played with such intensity even his coach was impressed.
“I told him, if you will make that you … (and) run like that, you will be the best player in the country,” Calipari said. “But he may choose not to run that way because it’s really hard. If he can make the commitment every time out on the court to play that way, he’s a beast.”
One that knows how to have a good time off the floor. He’s been known to break into dance for no reason in particular, and his sense of humor has made him a hit with one of the nation’s most rabid fan bases.
“He’s a funny guy, he’s a big ‘Dancing Bear,’ that’s what he calls himself and you can’t deny it,” teammate Mark Krebs said. “He’s very emotional. He’s very energetic. He’s that type of person. He’s a freshman but he’s part of the team. We can go to him, we can rely on him.”
If the Wildcats want to head back to the Final Four for the first time in 12 years, they’ll have to. It’s why Calipari will continue to amp up the pressure on his talented center.
“You just tell him ’This is acceptable, this is what’s not acceptable’ and he’s doing it,” Calipari said. “But again, he’s inexperienced, it’s all new to him.”


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