UK Men's Basketball

Cousins' temper a target for foes

Early in the first half of Kentucky's game on Saturday, freshman DeMarcus Cousins exchanged shoves with Auburn's Kenny Gabriel as play stopped.

One of the referees spoke with Cousins for several seconds. Afterward, the UK player walked to Gabriel, shook the Auburn player's hand and looked at the referee as if to say, 'Is that what you want?'

The education of UK power forward/compelling sideshow continues.

During the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference Monday, John Calipari said Cousins had become a target for opponents hoping to incite misbehavior.

"Every team is trying to get his goat," the UK coach said. "Every team is grabbing (his) uniform. Every team is forearm shivering."

Calipari saluted Cousins' restraint, which the coach said included last weekend's game telecast showing the UK player walking away from a hit to the chest.

"He never responded," Calipari said. "He just shook his head and walked away. How many players in college basketball would do that? Most of them would push back and fight.

"He now knows he can't."

Of course, Cousins hasn't always been the model of restraint this season. He got hit with a technical foul when he retaliated against a Cleveland State player in Cancun.

Then against Louisville, television caught him dropping his forearm onto the neck area of an opponent as they scrambled to retrieve a loose ball. CBS announcers Tim Brando and Seth Davis said on air that Cousins should have been ejected and suspended for the next game for an act they deemed the equivalent of a punch.

Cousins came to Kentucky with a reputation for having a short fuse and a temper prone to violence.

When a reporter from Mobile, Ala., where Cousins finished his high school career, asked Calipari about the player getting a "bad rap" before coming to Kentucky, the coach did not suggest that the big man was innocent as a lamb.

"Would you admit he brought some of that on himself?" Calipari asked the reporter. The reporter agreed.

"That's what he's learning," Calipari said. "What I'm saying to him is, you're one of the great kids I've coached. You should be perceived that way."

Calipari noted that Cousins' body language needs improving. The UK coaches are working to help the player present a better image.

"He only knows to frown or be sad," Calipari said. "... A lot of it is body language and how you do things. And he's learning.

"You see, that's what we're supposed to do with these young children. We're supposed to take them and teach them. In most cases, get them to change. Change how they think (and) change how they act."

Calipari suggested that the frowns and shoves and technical fouls mask the more pleasant, fun-loving side of Cousins' personality.

During the Hoops for Haiti telethon Sunday, Cousins interacted with a child who said he played a physical game like the UK big man.

"You better take hormones or something to be as big as me if you're going to play that way," Calipari said Cousins told the child. "He's quick. He's very intelligent and bright.

"When you put him in front of a camera, he's as good as Charles Barkley."

As former Auburn coach Sonny Smith noted earlier this month, Barkley also had a short fuse and became a target for opponents hoping to incite him into foolishly fouling or worse.

And Barkley had his share of boorish behavior before he came a beloved television performer.