This is part two of a multi-part series on the enigma that is DeMarcus Cousins. This series is going to cover everything from his early years before he ever picked up a basketball, to his discovery of basketball, high school, college, his misconceptions as a person and his salvation as an NBA player.
Standing at six feet, six inches tall, DeMarcus Cousins was easily the tallest 8th grade quarterback in all of the United States and by proxy the rest of the world. Cousins was taking a beating on the football field-especially his long legs. Tackling his legs was the only way the other kids could bring him down. No matter how hard he fought his mother on sticking with the game he currently loved, he finally yielded.
An AAU recruiter caught him after a football game, and asked him if he knew any 8th graders that played basketball.
“I’m an eighth grader,” he responded. Cousins was playing in his first AAU game a few days later.
He wasn’t very good. He was very raw and didn’t have a great concept of the game. His head wasn’t completely into it either. The Birmingham Storm (DeMarcus’s new found team) was one of the traveling AAU teams. They played in tournaments from Texas to Washington DC. This meant DeMarcus would have to travel a long way from home and his mother. Something that he hadn’t done much of and wasn’t totally comfortable doing.
While he lacked experience at first, DeMarcus didn’t lack drive and determination. He knew he wasn’t the greatest basketball player, but he knew he could be really good. Really, really damn good. He would spend most nights in the gym working on his handle, his post game, his mid range game. He would call his AAU coach, Danny Pritchett, after school to come work him out for a few hours every free night Pritchett had.
Through his first AAU season DeMarcus slowly grew out of his shell; he began to form close connections with his teammates and coaches. He quickly became known as the kid on the team who always had a smile, was always having fun and was the biggest practical joker.
Cousins continued to grow on the court as well.All of the hours of extra work before and after practice, before and after school began to really pay off. He was finally doing what a 6’7” fourteen year old should do- playing like a man amongst boys.
In his first high school game he garnered a triple double. 26 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. He would in fact go on to average a triple double for the rest of the season.
That’s when the phone started ringing. Bigger AAU programs wanted DeMarcus to move to their area to be part of their traveling team. College coaches called in attempts to buy the kid, giving him anything he wanted: shoes, cars, houses, money. You name it and it was probably offered to him.
Through it all though, DeMarcus would reply with a, “Nah, I’m good.” He would move on from those offers, not giving them a second thought. He loved the path he was currently on and he was building a great relationship with current University of Alabama-Birmingham coach, Mike Davis.
Washington, Memphis, North Carolina State, UAB, Kansas State and Kentucky had all offered DeMarcus a full ride scholarship to attend and play basketball at their university. By the time he finished high school he was the number two center in the country (behind Mason Plumlee) and the number three overall player (John Wall was number one).
Most figured that Cousins would end up with John Calipari at the University of Memphis. Some stories had even reported that he had given a verbal and was already packing his bags.
None of that was true. DeMarcus ended up signing with the local school, the smallest of the teams that had offered him.
DeMarcus Cousins was going to be playing his college ball at the University of Alabama-Birmingham in the fall of 2009.
Previous – Part I: His First Love of Football
Next – Part III: The Confusion Before College