DeMarcus Cousins Finds Success The Hard Way
Depending on whom you had asked, DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) may or may not have been a lock to make the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Team.
Had you asked the Alabama native himself, he would have told you he had no doubt. No doubt even after he suffered a knee injury in the first practice on Aug. 14 after the 16 finalists for the 2014 USA Men’s National Team reassembled in Chicago to resume training.
“To be honest, I was pretty confident about making the team,” Cousins said. “The injury was something I didn’t want to happen, but even through the injury I was pretty confident I was going to make the team.
“Luckily it wasn’t anything severe, and they knew that as well. It was just about getting my legs back, getting back in the swing of things, and of course that took time.”
Along with his imposing 6-foot-11, 270-pound frame, Cousins brought to the table impressive 2013-14 NBA season averages of 22.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
In addition to the knee injury that kept him sidelined during the USA’s exhibition win over Brazil on Aug. 16, what had Cousins’ doubters feeling he might get left at home was the wealth of talent that was in contention for just 12 roster spots, and also a past with USA Basketball that was ever so slightly less than perfect.
Cousins explains that issue was nonsense.
After playing for USA Basketball as a high school athlete in the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit and the 2007 Youth Development Festival, he earned his first invitation to a senior-level training camp as a member of the 2012 USA Select Team that scrimmaged against the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team during its Las Vegas training camp. At the time, USA Men’s National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo told reporters that Cousins needed to mature.
“With that situation, it was pretty over hyped,” Cousins explained. “There was never any bad blood. To say we have history is over hyped.
“Me and Jerry talked about it, and he said the same thing, that it was blown out of proportion. That is what the media does to make a story.”
The next summer, as Colangelo told Yahoo! Sports, was a “New year, new summer, new opportunity.”
Cousins returned to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp in Las Vegas, and though no team selection was on the line, he played in the 2013 USA Basketball Showcase and recorded six points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
“I was still part of the USA Basketball team, still part of the Select Team, still one of those guys. That right there should let you know there was never any bad blood.”
The first major reward for Cousins' repeated efforts and participation came on Jan. 23, 2014, when he was among 28 players named to the 2014-16 USA Basketball Men’s National Team.
“Just going through the whole process – people don’t realize it’s a tough process going from Select Team, to Select Team to becoming one of those guys,” Cousins said of his climb to becoming a national team member. “It’s definitely a tough process, and in my eyes that was a great accomplishment.”
The second major hurdle was cleared when he was named on Aug. 5 as one of 16 finalists in contention for the 2014 USA World Cup Team. That put the focus for Cousin’s on his conditioning.
“My main thing coming into camp was to try to be in the best shape possible in this part of the season. Usually this isn’t really a time of year when a lot of guys are in shape. You kind of had to get started early with your workouts. I just tried to take advantage of the opportunity and come in the best shape possible.
“It’s the same goal for every camp – come in and try to be the best player in the gym. Improve from the previous year and just show my worth and what I can do to help this team. That’s my main thing every time I come in; just come in and show my worth.”
Finally, on Aug. 23, Cousins was named along with 11 other players to the 2014 USA World Cup Team.
“I feel like it was a huge accomplishment. People don’t really realize how tough it is to really be a part of this. Just the likes of some of the players that didn’t make it – the Damian Lillards, the John Walls, it shows you how tough it really is.”
Had the path to making the USA Basketball World Cup Team been any smoother for the boy from Mobile, Alabama, Cousins would have been less at home than he says he was taking a rockier road.
“Me and my mom talk about it all the time. My story is crazy. Anything that I’ve been through, anything that I have accomplished, it was always the hard way. Nothing ever came easy for me, and that is just something that I have kind of accepted. I know it’s never come easy for me, and I think that is why I am the way I am.
“I just learned to accept that, and it’s just going to make my story that much better.”
How he is, could be summed up as determined.
“I’m just not the type of person that gives up. I accept all challenges, and I feel like I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. That’s just the fire within me. I don’t think I can ever be stopped.”
That attitude is why he says people do and should look up to him.
“I am a role model, absolutely. There are different types of people out there, and I come from a different type of place. So, I absolutely think I am a role model.
“I come from a place where there are not a lot of opportunities,” Cousins explained. “People there, they don’t ever really dream big because they don’t think it ever really exists. Like the things you see on TV, they think it’s just a false world. And them seeing me make it, they believe it is possible. Those people grew up with me; they have seen the struggles; they have seen me fight and work my way to where I am now, so I absolutely believe I am a role model.”
Cousins and his USA teammates tip off in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in just two days on Aug. 30 against Finland at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
‘’The environment is incredible,” Cousins said of the experience. “You are around a lot of talented guys. A lot of hard workers, a lot of guys that are already proven in the league, and honestly, I’m still not one of those guys, I feel like I still have to prove myself. So, I’m taking in as much as I can. Learning as much as I can. I’m going to try and go back to my team and take the things I learned with the USA team and teach the younger guys on my team.”
It is appropriate that Cousins, although not even started in World Cup play, already has goals for the upcoming NBA season. That is what you would expect of someone who has big plans for his future success.
“I’m never really satisfied,” Cousins said. “I always want to be better. I always want to do better, so I haven’t really just sat down and said I’m proud of myself yet, because I don’t think I’m done. I don’t even think I’m close.”