DeMarcus Cousins, one year removed from being a one-and-done entry in the NBA Draft, speaks with experience when talking with the University of Kentucky duo who are considering a similar path.
"I talked to them. I basically just told them which was the toughest part, basically what they're going through now," said Cousins, who held an autograph session Wednesday at Lexington Sports Cards. "You can kill yourself just trying to do everything right and trying to impress those coaches. I told them, 'You'll never impress them, so just go out there and relax and do your thing.' "
As to whether he advised freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight and/or junior DeAndre Liggins to leave their names in or withdraw from the draft, Cousins said, "not at all. That's a decision they're going to have to make themselves."
Cousins, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound forward/center, went to the Sacramento Kings with the fifth pick of last year's draft. Over 81 games with the Kings, Cousins averaged 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds a game. He came in third in balloting for NBA Rookie of the Year honors Wednesday, behind Blake Griffin and fellow UK one-and-doner John Wall.
Never miss a local story.
Cousins called his rookie season a "big learning year for me" and said he had no regrets.
"Tough transition. A lot to learn," he said. "It's just not about putting the ball in the basket, and I found out this season how to be a professional on and off the floor. I just learned a lot."
"Just how to carry yourself as a professional. That's a big word at this stage. That's a word that you learn to respect. If you're not professional, you might have a rough time in this league."
Two years removed from high school, Cousins found himself banging on the boards with players he once only dreamed of playing against.
"It's crazy. I grew up watching most of these guys in the league. ... I looked up at them," Cousins said. "But you've got to go out there and go after them just like they're going to go after you. In the beginning, it was tough. But on a night-to-night basis, you get used to it quick. So it's like, 'here we go again, so let's get going.'"
One of five UK players taken in the first round of last year's draft, Cousins says he remains close to his college teammates. The others: Wall, Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe.
"The relationship's still strong," he said. "When we see each other, it's like we never left. Still acting crazy. Still laughing, joking. So the relationship's still strong. We talk when we get a chance to. We've all got busy schedules with our separate teams."
Cousins said he kept tabs on UK's road to the Final Four this past season.
When some in the national media suggested that the 2011 Wildcats were "closer" than the team on which Cousins played, "it did bother me," he said. "At the beginning of the year, they were saying this team wasn't close enough, like the team last year. It just comes with the territory. But we're all one family. One UK team. ... I'm happy for them."
For much of his rookie season, it looked as if Cousins might be a one-and-done in Sacramento. The Kings seemed on the verge of moving to Anaheim, Calif. However, word came this week that the Kings will stay in Sacramento at least one more year.
"I'm a loyal guy, and I'm loyal to the fans of Sacramento," Cousins said. "So I'm excited to be back another year."
With a salary of $3,374,640 this season, "Big Cuz" could afford some luxury. He says he kept his spending under control, though, limiting his big purchases to a house and a vehicle — a Range Rover.
He didn't drive during his playing days at UK, but he acquired a license before he left.
"It's going good," Cousins said with a laugh. "... Just move out of the way when I'm driving."