DeMarcus Cousins Ready to Be Great
The red-flag leader is ready for the scrutiny, the expectations, the double-edged adulation that will come with being the No. 5 pick and newest center for the Sacramento Kings.
He wasn't ready before.
"When Nike named him No. 1 (in the country) in the ninth grade (in Birmingham, Ala.), he really didn't know what that meant and his world changed quickly," his mother, Monique Cousins, told FanHouse by phone just minutes after the 6-foot-11, 289-pound former Kentucky center was selected in Thursday's draft. "And then the more and more he played ball, and the more people just recognized his talent, we weren't really prepared because we just didn't know how he would show in the world. As I became more educated, I was able to step up and be there and be supportive."
Her boy was still a boy then, even though he looked like a man. He was a 6-foot-6, 14-year-old, one who would dominate on his AAU Birmingham Storm team and later on his LeFlore High School squad before finally being wooed off to Kentucky. Along the way, there would be a handful of unflattering incidents and mountain's worth of negativity and skepticism surrounding him.
And just as his mother moved briefly to Lexington, Ky. to help the most famous of her six children adjust to the spotlight at the start of his college career, the Cousins family once again plans to take the necessary steps to surround him with necessary support this time around.
Monique is tending to her ailing mother in Mobile, so DeMarcus' 24-year-old sister, Ryan, will live with him in Sacramento while his mother will visit frequently. It's a similar setup to that of his new teammate, guard Tyreke Evans, who is surrounded by a group dubbed Team Tyreke that is almost entirely family.
"I feel like when you are blessed to have children, it's your responsibility to make sure all of their needs are met," said Monique, who joked that she doesn't work because watching over DeMarcus is a full-time job. "What I did to change things (when DeMarcus' reputation was heading downhill) was be more vocal, more focused, and a lot of times things change when (people) see there is someone there, someone who cares, and he's not just someone who's out there alone. That was part of the situation, too, that there wasn't any parent around."
The goal, of course, is to fuse the personal and the professional into the best DeMarcus Cousins he can be. And as for the basketball portion of that equation, another favorite member of his past has no doubts he will come through in the pros.
In addition to being the head coach at LeFlore during Cousins' prep years, Otis Hughley has coached for the league's NBA China program and worked Pete Newell's "Big Man Camp" for years. He estimates he has worked with more than 200 NBA players, none of them, in his opinion, as good as Cousins.
"You knew he had to keep pushing through the adversity that people would try to throw his direction," Hughley said by phone after Cousins was drafted. "He still weathered every storm, still grew with each experience. And he just continued to grow and develop.
"DeMarcus is not even close to being what he's going to be. It'll be really, really scary to see what he can become. He's amazing. In my mind he's the best player in the draft."
With the addition of Cousins, the Kings suddenly have one of the league's most intriguing young frontlines to help them improve from a two-season stretch in which they won a combined 42 games. They traded with Philadelphia for 6-11 center Samuel Dalembert recently, then added Marshall 7-footer Hassan Whiteside with the 33rd pick after taking Cousins.
The pairing with Evans could be especially potent, as the reigning Rookie of the Year now has another capable offensive scorer to take pressure off him from the post (the other being fourth-year forward Carl Landry). The notion of the Kings becoming the first franchise to have the Rookie of the Year in consecutive seasons since Buffalo in the early 1970s is not far fetched. Braves rookies Bob McAdoo and Ernie DiGregorio last achieved the feat in 1972-73 and 1973-74.
Not surprisingly, the motivating factor for Cousins will be the way he has been portrayed on his way here.
"I'm going to hold that every night," he told reporters on a conference call from Madison Square Garden in New York. "If people have things to say about me, then I'll play with that chip on my shoulder because I'm thinking about that person, whoever it is and I'm going to play with that fire.
"I have talent that's there, but I just have the mentality right now that I just want to be the greatest. And I don't think that any other player has that right now."