Cousins growing up as season progresses


Freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins attampts to drive to the basket against LSU at Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010. Photo by Scott Hannigan

UK freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins has come a long way, not only on and off the basketball court, but also in becoming media savvy.

Earlier in the season when asked about the Cats’ upcoming game against defending National Champions North Carolina, Cousins shrugged his shoulders and said he wasn’t impressed.

On Monday, when the Mobile, Ala., native was asked if there was a little extra something to Tuesday’s game against Alabama, Cousins had the politically correct answer.

“It’s just another game,” he said with a noticeable smile on his face.

“No big deal.”

In high school, many labeled Cousins as a hot head, and his attitude wasn’t viewed favorably. At UK though, while his attitude and on-court demeanor have been brought to the forefront at times, Cousins has become a fan favorite.

In postgame interviews, he dons glasses for his “Peter Parker swag.” On and off the court, some fans refer to him as “Boogie,” some as “Dancing Bear,” while others prefer “Big Cuz.” No matter what the name, there’s no doubt Cousins has grown.

“He listens,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “When you tell him something, he understands it, and then he can go do it.”

Cousins said he’s grown up a lot on the court, pointing to his decision-making abilities and overall basketball IQ, but he also said he’s very misunderstood. Cousins doesn’t believe other big men, like Kansas’ Cole Aldrich, get beat up the way he does.

“I mean, I feel like I’ve grown up a lot,” Cousins said. “But I’m not a different person, I’m still the same DeMarcus.”

With the bull’s-eye that most teams have put on Cousins, the star power he has started to create is something of a new phenomenon. He was highly touted coming out of high school, but also received the negative comments from scouts, fans and others. At UK, Calipari said Cousins is finally starting to be looked at for the right things instead of the bad things.

“Here’s a kid that’s being loved by the staff, that is being loved by the community,” Calipari said. “Instead of looking at weaknesses, we’re all looking at his strengths –  now let me just say this – for the first time in his life.

“So now all of a sudden, he’s just like ‘this is great,’ and he wants to learn, and he wants to get better,” Calipari said.

On Monday, Cousins earned his third SEC Freshman of the Week honor to go with his SEC Player of the Week award he earned in the eighth week of the season.

With eight games remaining on the schedule, Cousins is averaging a double-double with 16.4 points and 10 rebounds per game, good enough for seventh in the SEC in points and second in rebounds.

Calipari put the numbers aside and talked about Cousins as a teammate to demonstrate what kind of player he is.

“He wants to score and rebound, but it’s more about us winning,” Calipari said. “And who bragged more about John Wall early in the year other than him? Anybody? He was it. He was John Wall’s PR machine early in the year. It was him … that’s the kind of kid he is.”

Now Cousins, like Wall, is beginning to receive Player of the Year attention. But Cousins said he’s not worried about any of that recognition. It’s all part of the game.

“I mean I’ve noticed, and I’ve heard about it,” Cousins said. “But I’m just playin’ ball.”