Critiqued UK product Cousins sets out to eliminate gray area
Posted: Friday, July 30, 2010 3:08 pm
By: By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins has a favor to ask all the doubters who questioned his maturity and his game before the NBA draft, then raved about his play during the Las Vegas Summer League: Take a side.
“Make up your mind,” Cousins said. “You either love me or you hate me.”
There’s no in-between with Cousins, selected fifth overall by the Sacramento Kings in last month’s draft.
If not for the questions about his maturity, the 6-foot-11, 280-pound might have gone even higher behind former Kentucky teammate and top overall pick John Wall.
Cousins silenced his critics — at least temporarily — with his performance in Las Vegas, where he averaged 16.2 points and 10.6 rebounds in five games.
The affable Cousins, who turns 20 next month, said the questions about him drives him to succeed.
“I go out and play with a chip on my shoulder and try and prove every doubter wrong every time I step on the floor,” he said.
Does he need to grow up a little? Sure. He also understands he’s got plenty of time. This is the same teenager, after all, who still doesn’t have his driver’s license.
“I’m still working on that,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t want to be killing people on the road.”
Cousins is kidding. Something he does a lot. He knows some mistake that for a lack of intensity. He knows the only way to change people’s mind is to go out and play hard.
That was easy in Las Vegas. He was dominant at times, showcasing a motor that made him one of the most effective big men in the country at Kentucky.
Cousins averaged 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds for the Wildcats last spring, a number that would have been significantly higher if he didn’t run into foul trouble. He put up those numbers despite playing just over 23 minutes a game. Compare that to Wall, who averaged 16.6 points in nearly 35 minutes a night.
Cousins isn’t saying he’s better than his former teammate. He just shook his head on Thursday when asked about the difference between the NBA and college, pointing out that when he arrived in Lexington on Wednesday afternoon to participate in coach John Calipari’s Pro Camp, Wall was already out on the practice floor drenched in sweat.
“You determine how far you’re going to go,” Cousins said. “If you want to sit around and be lazy, you’ll be out of the league basically, working a 9-to-5 job. You’re your own business.”
And business has been good so far for Cousins, who likes Sacramento because he thinks it has a decidedly Kentucky feel to it. The Kings, like the Wildcats, are the only game in town. And when things are going well, Arco Arena can sound an awful lot like Rupp Arena.
Cousins is hoping a young nucleus led by himself and point guard Tyreke Evans can lead a revival much like the one Cousins and Wall helped bring to the Wildcats.
“If we keep working hard we can do some damage in the league,” he said.
Wall, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton — the rest of the record five Wildcats selected in the first round — are hoping to do the same thing.
All are eager to make an impact. There’s a chance two or three of them could also find themselves competing for NBA rookie of the year next season.
“The competition is there but we’ll never speak on it,” he said.
Instead they’ll focus on trying to return to Lexington when they can, playing pickup games together over the summer.
While Cousins doesn’t regret his decision to turn pro — he fought back tears while talking about buying his mother a house after signing his contract a few weeks ago — there’s little doubt he misses the college life.
He admitted at times he wishes he’d returned for his sophomore season and on Thursday he caught himself watching highlights from Kentucky’s remarkable 2009-10 season in which the Wildcats won 35 games and the SEC title.
“I’ve missed this place,” Cousins said. “I wish I was going to classes.”