Highly-regarded prospect DeMarcus Cousins became the first recruiting notch in John Calipari’s belt as Kentucky coach late Tuesday night.
That’s when Cousins made it official. After first committing to Memphis, he would follow Calipari to Kentucky.
“He wanted to do it at the highest level and with a coach he’s grown to feel comfortable with,” said Otis Hughley, Cousins’ high school coach, in explaining the decision.
Calipari’s success with NBA-bound players like Derrick Rose and Marcus Camby probably played a role in Cousins’ decision, Hughley said.
So did style of play.
“I think he likes the opportunity to play pro sets,” Hughley said. “Pick and roll. Pick and pop. That will highlight the arsenal and variety he has in his game. . . . He wanted to find a place to do more than sit on the block or just play outside. He wants to play the whole game.”
Cousins, a 6-foot-10 player for John Leflore High in Mobile, Ala., is rated as the nation’s No. 2 prospect in the class of 2009, according to the recruiting service Rivals.com.
Cousins averaged “close to 27 (points) and 11 (rebounds)” for Leflore last season, Hughley said. He’ll come to Kentucky with the expectation of being a so-called “one-and-done,” a player for only one season on the college level, as Rose and Tyreke Evans played for Calipari at Memphis.
When asked if Cousins would be a one-and-done player, Hughley said, “He can be. All that stuff is contingent on too many variables.”
Hard work and a good attitude can make Cousins a one-and-done player, the Leflore coach said.
“A lot of guys can practice all day every day, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” Hughley said. “He certainly has everything he would need.”
Recruiting analysts see Cousins as a top-shelf prospect.
Jerry Meyer of Rivals.com said Cousins was one of the most skilled big men he’d seen in more than six years appraising prospects. He rated Cousins over Al Jefferson, who jumped from high school to the Boston Celtics, because Cousins had greater shooting range and was a better passer.
“He’ll be a good NBA player,” said analyst Brick Oettinger of the Prep Stars recruiting service.
Cousins has not taken a college entrance exam, so his academic eligibility remains unfulfilled.
One other question hangs over Cousins. He’s had fits of temper while playing in the summer AAU circuit.
“There are flare-ups,” Meyer said before adding, “That’s better than being soft and won’t compete. . . . He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t mind getting physical. It’s just a matter of controlling and channeling (the anger).” Hughley all but guaranteed that Cousins will not have any flare-ups for however long he plays for Kentucky.
“He won’t do that under Coach Cal,” the Leflore coach said. “He didn’t do that under me. All that is really directly correlated to how he’s led. A lot of it is just being young.”