Cousins was fine with that.
“Some players go to a school where they can score a bunch of points and put up big numbers,” Cousins said. “But when the season is over, they’re the same player as they were when it started.
“I’m not going to be like that. I came here to get better. I came here to learn.”
“On the court,” Cousins said, “I’m a badass. I’m mean. I’m there to cut your throat. I’m not there to be nice. Off the court, I’m cool. I’m chill. I play around with you. I’m nothing like people say I am. Anyone that’s taken the time to get to know me will tell you that.”
“But on the court … like I said, I’m there to cut your throat.”
“He’s not really angry or mad all the time,” Patterson said, “but he plays with that anger and fire and frustration. He leaves it on the court. He’s not a bad person, but he’s not going to let up. He’s not going to let you see the light of day. Even when he’s beating you down, he’s still not going to stop.”
“He’s got such good footwork for a freshman,” Patterson said. “And he’s not afraid to dribble the ball. He’ll grab it off the rim and take off down the court without hesitation. He’s just so naturally strong. Even when he was young and skinny, I bet he was strong.”
Cousins said he’s enjoying the attention that he and fellow recruits such as Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton are receiving in Lexington. Almost everywhere they go, the Wildcats are asked to sign autographs or pose for pictures.
Kentucky failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 17 years last season under former coach Billy Gillispie, which means Wildcats fans are hungrier than ever for a good season. Cousins said he, Wall and Bledsoe were recently asked to pose for a picture with one student who was so nervous he was shaking.
“That’s probably the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Cousins said. “I’ve never seen something like that before. I wanted to hug him. It makes me feel good. We feel loved and we feel wanted, but that also means the expectations are through the roof.”
Indeed, most preseason polls have the Wildcats ranked between No. 1 and No. 5. One season after settling for an appearance in the NIT, Kentucky is a Final Four favorite, and Cousins is one of the main reasons.
“That doesn’t bother me,” Cousins said. “People have placed high expectations on me my whole life. I’ve always had pressure on my shoulders. This is just another page in my book.”
“He’s just like me – cut and dried,” Cousins said. “Most coaches who recruited me said, ‘You’re going to be a great player. I’m going to get you the ball every possession and you’re going to average 40. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’
“Coach Cal came in and said, ‘You work, you’ll play. It’s not about you. It’s about the team.’”
“At the end of the season,” he said, “if you have the ability to be one-and-done, he’s going to put your name out there. He’s going to help you get there.
“Other coaches try to hold you back for three or four years just to keep their [reputation] up there and keep their program rolling. It’s not like that with Cal. He lets you display every ability you have.”
Cousins is looking forward to doing just that.
“If I am blessed with the opportunity to be one-and-done, I’m going to take it,” he said. “But I’m not even thinking about that right now. I’ve got one thing on my mind and that’s winning a national championship.”
I love this kid. Kentucky hasn’t had a kid with this kind of swagger while simultaneously having the talent on a team level to back it up in almost a decade.
Good Luck with that Championship, Cousins. The whole of the Big Blue Nation is hoping you are, indeed, successful. And we’ll follow you to the Pros with a devotion not seen from many other schools.
Go Big Blue!