Rivals.com considers DeMarcus Cousins the best power forward in the high school class of 2009. More pertinent to Kentucky basketball, new coach John Calipari considers him ideal for the dribble-drive offense.
"You can't be a lumbering big man who just sets screens and just posts up," Calipari said on Thursday, the day after Cousins signed with UK. "I don't have a place for you."
Calipari said he wants skilled players who can pass, shoot and catch. "The bigger the better," he said.
Cousins, who played for LeFlore High School in Mobile, Ala., fits the bill. He averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds as a senior, earning Parade All-American honors. He led LeFlore to a 29-3 record and a berth in the Class 5A state semifinals.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Cousins played in the McDonald's All-American Game in Miami earlier this month, as well as the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland last week as a member of the 2009 USA Junior National Select Team. He's in New York City to play in Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic All-American Game.
Cousins signed with UK on Wednesday, the first day of a monthlong period when prospects can sign letters of intent. He joins Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood (Madisonville) and Daniel Orton (Oklahoma City) as members of UK's 2009 signing class.
Calipari dismissed reports of an anger management problem for Cousins with a quip.
"I have the same problem," he said. "I know exactly what he's thinking because I have the same anger problem."
The new UK coach identified another knock on Cousins: Critics question the player's work ethic. Calipari spoke confidently of handling that problem should it arise.
"If you ever know me, the one thing I've been able to do is inspire players to work," he said. "And then from discipline creates self-discipline. That's one thing I've been able to be with just about every kid I've coached.
"I'd much rather have a kid who has an upside who doesn't work than a hard-working, non-playing (guy). He's done."
Calipari noted how Cousins and his mother have said they wanted to work under his guidance. Cousins originally committed to Memphis, then followed Calipari to UK.
Calipari envisioned the possibility of being blunt if Cousins does not work hard.
"Your habits are either going to pick you up or they're going to drag you down the tube," the UK coach said of a hypothetical conversation with Cousins.
"That will be a talk I'll probably have with him. But can you tell that I've had that before?"