DeMarcus Cousins holds his own on first day of USA Basketball mini-camp

DeMarcus Cousins at Team USA Mini Camp 2014 (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

LAS VEGAS – DeMarcus Cousins is hoping to make a trip to Spain and represent the U.S. in this year’s World Championships.  With bigs like LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin pulling out of the pool, the 23-year-old center has a strong chance of making the cut.  For now, all Cousins is focused on is letting his play do the talking.

“I mean if guys pulled out or not, I’m gonna come in and do my part,” Cousins said after Monday’s practice at the Mendenhall Center at UNLV. “Can’t really focus on that.  I can just focus on what I can control and that’s my play.  And so that’s all I can really worry about.”

How did Cousins fare in Day 1 of this week’s mini-camp?  The Sacramento Kings big man shared his experience working out against some of the world’s most elite players following Monday’s practice.

  • Cousins on being part of the national team roster: “It just feels good to be off the select team.  Now it’s our turn to beat up on them.  It’s always fun to come out and experience it, be around some great talent, so just come in and make the best of it.”
  • Cousins joked around with fellow big man Anthony Davis after practice.  The two share a unique connection with both being former Kentucky Wildcats. “It’s always fun,” Cousins said.  “Anthony’s always playing around.  It’s always fun.  It’s always competitive.  I know we’re going to bring the best out of each other.”
  • When Cousins and the rest of these superstars eventually come together to compete for this year’s FIBA World Title, egos need to be left at the door.  For now though, head coach Mike Krzyzewski is telling his players to bring their “A” games during this first mini-camp here in Las Vegas, according to Cousins. “A lot of guys say leave your egos at the door,” Cousins said.  “But at this point, (Coach K) doesn’t want us to do that.  He wants us to bring our egos.”
  • With so many All-Stars on Team USA’s roster, some might wonder whether checking one’s ego at the door is a tall task for this roster.  Cousins, however, doesn’t think it will be.  “I don’t believe so,” the 23-year-old center said.  “We got a good group of guys here so I don’t think it will be hard at all.”
  • This week’s camp in Las Vegas is just the first of multiple mini-camps ahead of this year’s World Championships that take place in Madrid next month.  What is the main purpose of this first week of mini-camp for Team USA?  “It’s just about us building that chemistry, knowing what each other can do and we just gotta continue to play with one another,” Cousins said.
  • Cousins said he and Kevin Durant joked about how tired they were at one point in Monday’s practice.  But overall, the Kings starting center is happy about his conditioning and fitness level coming into this year’s mini-camp.  “A lot of guys were winded early,” Cousins said.  “There’s a lot of guys first time playing organized basketball (in a while).  It’s not drill work anymore.  We gotta kind of get up and down so when we caught our second wind, we were fine.”
  • With so many players in the gym at one time, Cousins has yet to get any one-on-one time with Coach K.  He doesn’t know specifically what the Duke head coach wants out of the bigs on this year’s roster, but Cousins thinks he has an idea.  “I think what he wants from me is to be a physical specimen, be a defensive anchor and just control the paint,” Cousins said.  “Be a dominant force down there.”
  • Cousins on how his first year under Kings head coach Michael Malone has prepared him for Team USA:  “Well a lot of the defensive concepts Mike teaches, it’s the same thing they teach out here.  It’s kind of been easier for me to adapt and I’m kind of learning fast on the fly, so I’ll probably say that’s the biggest thing.”
  • After playing on the USA Select Team the last two summers, Cousins feels a little more prepared for his opportunity on the national team this year.  The biggest difference between being on the national team vs. the select team?  “We’re the bullies now,” he said jokingly with a laugh.
  • Another one of the differences between being on the select team versus the national team is mastering Coach K’s system this time around.  “It’s not just us trying to look good, which is what we were doing on the Select Team,” Cousins said.  “Now it’s trying to get it right and learn your teammates, learn your system and learn how to play with one another so that’s probably the biggest difference.”
  • After practice, Cousins took on Klay Thompson and Steph Curry in a 3-point shooting contest.  The Kings starting center more than held his own against the Golden State Warriors backcourt, declaring himself a Splash Brother despite finishing last in the shootout.  “I’m not going to take it as a negative thing,” Cousins said with a smile. “I’m gonna just take it as I’m just the third best shooter in the gym.”
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