Cousins not too dysfunctional for Kentucky family
Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 6:32 pm
By: By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t answer questions after games so much as he holds court.
The gregarious freshman center is as refreshingly unfiltered as head coach John Calipari is polished. Blunt and direct, Cousins is unapologetically honest whether the topic is his sometimes eccentric postgame attire or his ability to attract controversy wherever he goes.
Yes, Cousins thinks he may be the best center in the Southeastern Conference. Yes, he believes the referees swallow their whistles sometimes when the ball is in his hands. Yes, he may have pushed a South Carolina student out of the way while trying to get off the court last week, but he didn’t punch him as at least one reporter claimed.
Hey, it’s all a part of the game when you’re “Big Cuz,” one of the handful of monikers Cousins goes by.
“I’m just doing my part,” Cousins said from behind his nonprescription black-rimmed glasses, part of what he calls his “Peter Parker” swag.
And he’s playing his part as well as any player in the country.
Powered by nimble footwork, soft hands and a relentless intensity that sometimes gets him in trouble, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Cousins is challenging the notion that heralded teammate John Wall is the most NBA-ready player on the fourth-ranked Wildcats (20-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference), who host No. 25 Ole Miss (16-5, 4-3) today.
Cousins is averaging 16.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game, good numbers that become staggering when Cousins’ limited court time is factored in. He plays barely half the game — 21 minutes a night — because of his inability to stay out of foul trouble.
“A lot has been made about John Wall, because he is a terrific player, and deservedly so,” said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. “But Cousins, even though at a different position, is just as much a factor right now for their team.”
Stallings got an eyeful on Saturday when Cousins scored 21 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes of Kentucky’s 85-72 victory.
The Commodores thought they had the right game plan to slow Cousins down, double-teaming him with A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor whenever Cousins touched the ball in the post.
“We told our players what he would do when he was double-teamed, and he did it,” Stallings said.
The Commodores just couldn’t stop it.
Cousins dunked on Kentucky’s first possession, then spun around Ogilvy for a layup while getting fouled the next time down the floor, one of four three-point plays Cousins converted in the opening 10 minutes to help the Wildcats build a 16-point lead.
“I saw a lot of stuff saying I never played against a real big man and (Ogilvy) is the best big man in our conference,” Cousins said. “Not even close.”
All that contact, however, comes with a price. Cousins complained of a sore chin after getting smacked around against the Commodores. The referees rewarded his effort with 13 trips to the foul line. It’s a number he thinks should increase.
When told that a television analyst called him the most fouled player in the country, Cousins didn’t miss a chance to stick up for himself.
“I totally agree,” he said. “I get fouled a lot. I’m used to it now.”
He’s also used to trudging toward the bench after picking up yet another foul like he did after collecting his second foul with 9:22 to go in the first half against the Commodores. Cousins spent the rest of half uneasily watching the Wildcats maintain the comfortable margin he helped establish.
Then again, getting some unwanted rest is nothing new. Cousins has committed at least four fouls in 10 games and added his first technical foul of the season for arguing midway through the second half against Vanderbilt.
Cousins said he’s done his best to clean up his act and tries to chat up the referees to let them know he’s not some foul-prone monster.
Apparently, the charm offensive isn’t working. The responses Cousins receives are cordial if not exactly forthcoming, and the buddy-buddy act has done little to stop the whistles.
“They say ‘I’m doing great, how are you?’” Cousins said.
Depends on the situation.
For all his precociousness, Cousins is still just 19 and maturity remains an issue even as Calipari has praised his renewed work ethic.
Cousins drew the ire of Louisville fans when he appeared to intentionally throw an elbow at forward Jared Swopshire during a scramble for a loose ball in a tense 71-62 win at Rupp Arena last month. Last week he denied a claim by a reporter who said Cousins swung at a South Carolina student while trying to get off the floor after the Gamecocks pulled off the upset.
“I never threw a punch, I don’t know where that came from,” Cousins said.
Though Calipari has tried to smooth out some of the rough edges of his talented but sometimes tempestuous star, Cousins’ teammates know that emotion is part of what drives him.
Patrick Patterson called Cousins one of the elite centers in the country, and isn’t worried about the player teammates call “Boogie” blowing a fuse at the wrong time.
“DeMarcus knows not to get too mad,” Patterson said. “He can get mad, but not mad to the point where he costs us the game.”
Cousins knows there’s no fun in that.