- Illinois State Redbirds - November 30, 2015 - Rupp Arena - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN2
If you’re looking to pass a little time tonight, take 10 minutes out of your evening to read this fantastic, in-depth story on the misunderstood DeMarcus Cousins. Written by Alejandro Danois of The Sporting News, the feature takes us through a journey of Cousins’ basketball career to illustrate there is more than meets the eye with the former Wildcat and John Calipari player.
There’s some great stuff in the story about Cousins’ time with Coach Cal at Kentucky. Here’s an excerpt:
Leaving the dark cloud that followed him throughout Alabama, Cousins felt reborn during his one season at the University of Kentucky. Not only did the change of scenery give him a fresh start, he also assumed a new alias.
“I got my nickname from assistant coach Rod Strickland,” said Cousins. “Every day in practice, he’d be saying ‘Boog! Boogie! Ayo Boogie! What up Boogie!’”
“DeMarcus was handling the ball in practice, doing some things I hadn’t seen a big dude do,” said Strickland, a 17-year NBA veteran. “He was doing some guard stuff with the ball. I told him, ‘You’ve got some boogie with you, huh?’ And I just kept calling him Boogie. He’s a unique big dude that has a chance to redefine that center and power forward position. He can do some things that people haven’t seen him do yet.”
In Lexington, Cousins endeared himself to the rabid UK fan base in way that not many others have. During home games at Rupp Arena, the crowd was regularly awash with poster boards touting marriage proposals or boasting how much Kentuckians loved their Cousins.
“Kentucky’s a passionate place where they accept you for who you are,” said DeMarcus. “It felt so good to go up there and be myself. None of the other stuff mattered. I played my heart out for them, for an entire state, and they loved me.”
Cousins and fellow freshmen John Wall and Eric Bledsoe spearheaded the program’s ascension back to the upper echelon of college hoops in John Calipari’s first season at UK, leading the Wildcats to a 35-3 record and an appearance in the Elite Eight.
On the court, Cousins mesmerized with his rare dexterity, hunger, nimbleness, size, strength, soft hands and deft footwork in the paint. Despite playing a little more than 20 minutes per game due to a penchant for accumulating fouls, he averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds for the season, phenomenal numbers when you consider how often he was sitting on the bench.
“DeMarcus is one of the most talented big men I’ve ever had,” Calipari once said. “He has tremendous ball-handling skills for a player his size. His combination of size and shooting ability should make him tough to defend. He has a mean streak on the court that gives him an edge.”
But when the cameras caught Cousins and Calipari arguing on the bench during games, many took that as continued evidence of the enigmatic player’s attitude problem.
“DeMarcus has an edge and he has to watch that at times, but he’s a great dude,” said Strickland. “Once he respects you, you’re good. He’s a good natured dude who is good at heart. But if he senses you being fake, or not being straight up with him, then you might have a problem.”
And speaking of former players, I don’t think you’ll find a better pass than the one Eric Bledsoe made to Blake Griffin Saturday night. Good to see Bledsoe healthy again and back on the court for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Three former Coach Cal players in Rising Stars Challenge