UK Men's Basketball

Wall, Cousins are first-team All-Americans

If, as expected, freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are so-called one-and-done players, they will be remembered as one-and-done-a-lot stars for Kentucky.

Their estimable contribution to this season got validated Monday when Wall and Cousins became the first UK teammates to make The Associated Press All-America first team since Ralph Beard and Alex Groza in 1949.

From beginning to end, the two cheered and promoted each other.

"This means a lot to both of us. I'm surprised and glad we both made it," Wall told the Associated Press. "We had to learn a lot as freshmen and we were able to help our teammates along the way. This means a lot to both of us."

Cousins, the only player selected to the team who averaged a double-double with 15.3 points and (rounding off) 10.0 rebounds, acknowledged his surprise.

"It's important to me but it wasn't something I was expecting," he told the AP. "This means a lot because all we really did was try to come in and help our teammates."

Roommates at UK, the two had known each other long before becoming centers of attention in the basketball world.

"We met when I was 14 and he was skinny," Wall quipped in Syracuse, where Kentucky lost to West Virginia in the East Region finals to fall one victory short of the Final Four goal.

With Wall's floor leadership and clutch play, plus Cousins' consistent production around the basket, Kentucky returned to the elite of college basketball this season.

Kentucky had not had a first-team AP All-America selection since Ron Mercer in 1997. Wall and Cousins became the 15th and 16th UK players to make first team since the AP began naming All-America teams in the 1940s.

Wall was a contender to be the AP's Player of the Year. But the balloting by members of the media who vote on the weekly top-25 poll tabbed Ohio State's Evan Turner as the Player of the Year.

Other members of the AP's first All-America team were Wes Johnson of Syracuse and Scottie Reynolds of Villanova.

Wall noted their improvement as players throughout a season he set a UK record for assists with 241 this season. His average of 6.5 assists ranked third nationally. He averaged 16.9 points and led the team with 66 steals.

"My point guard skills became a lot better," Wall said in Syracuse on Friday. "I'm leading my team more than I was at the beginning. At first, I was trying to live up to the hype. There's so much stuff I had to learn about the game."

UK Coach John Calipari had implored Wall to be more vocal in leading the team. Cousins said Wall became a more vocal leader.

"Oh yeah, John will cuss you out (and) get in your face," Cousins said on Friday. "John's a baby version of Cal. That's John's job. He's our coach on the floor."

Teammate Mark Krebs noted how Wall could be more subtle in leading the Cats. He recalled how Wall committed a foul in order to allow substitutes to enter the game in the final minutes of a blowout victory over North Carolina-Asheville.

"Stuff like that really sticks in your mind as far as leadership," Krebs said.

Cousins, whose 20 double-doubles in 38 games ranked sixth nationally, had to prove he could keep his composure when things did not go his way. He picked up four technical fouls and — unfairly, he said — prompted referees to check replays of his comportment on the sideline monitor on other occasions.

"I knew it was going to be tough," Wall said of the eyes on Cousins. "A big person like that, you know teams are going to do stuff."

Cousins got weary of the knocks and bumps. He tired of the media questions about his demeanor. But he left a more lasting impression as a remarkably consistent player.

When asked if he was proud of how he weathered the scrutiny and physical play, Cousins said, "I am proud. ... I knew I could do it."

Past Kentucky first-team All-America selections are Mercer (1997), Jamal Mashburn (1993), Kenny Walker (1986), Kyle Macy (1980), Dan Issel (1970), Louie Dampier (1966), Cotton Nash (1964), Johnny Cox (1959), Cliff Hagan (1954 and 1952), Bill Spivey (1951), Beard (1949 and 1948) and Groza (1949).

Wall and Cousins became the first teammates to make the AP first team since J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams of Duke in 2006.

For the third time in four seasons, two freshmen made the AP first team. In 2007, Kevin Durant of Texas and Greg Oden of Ohio State made the first team. In 2008, Michael Beasley of Kansas State and Kevin Love of UCLA made it. Wall and Cousins also became the seventh and eighth freshmen on the AP first team. Other first-team freshmen were Wayman Tisdale of Oklahoma (1983) and Chris Jackson of LSU (1989).

Of the star freshmen point guards in Calipari's coaching history, Wall is the first to be named to the AP's first team. As players for Memphis, Derrick Rose was voted to the third team in 2008 and Tyreke Evans was an honorable mention in 2009.