Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins earns praise from USA Basketball’s Coach K

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward during a break at USA Basketball Training Camp. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)The Sacramento Kings’ starting center remains a finalist to make USA’s roster for the World Cup tournament in Spain later this month. DeMarcus Cousins made it through the first round of cuts that were reported yesterday and formally announced by USA Basketball officials today.

“I am honored to be part of the US National Basketball Team and a finalist for the World Cup roster,” Cousins said in a prepared statement issued by the Sacramento Kings. “I am humbled by the importance and magnitude of this opportunity and will do what is needed to help the team win games and make my country proud.”

In a conference call with media Tuesday afternoon, USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski complimented Cousins’ play last week in the Las Vegas training camp. Krzyzewski praised the Sacramento Kings big man’s commitment to USA Basketball, calling his attitude “tremendous”.

“His attitude is tremendous because he wouldn’t keep coming back to try and be a part of this and be on a U.S. team if it didn’t mean something to him,” Krzyzewski said.

Krzyzewski thought Cousins excelled in several areas, including conditioning and rebounding. The Duke head coach also liked that Cousins was very vocal on the court, particularly on the defensive side of the floor. Krzyzewski also pointed out that Cousins gives Team USA a low-post presence as a scorer and passer, which are abilities the other bigs on the roster don’t offer.

“DeMarcus had a really good week,” Krzyzewski said. “Outstanding scrimmage (where he was) leading rebounder and gives us a big that’s different than Anthony Davis. We’re looking at that big position – the five – kind of separate from all the others, and that’s where we’ve lost guys. And DeMarcus had a really good week, so we’re hoping that that could continue.”

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George appeared to be a lock for USA’s final roster at the FIBA World Cup in Madrid before breaking his right leg in last Friday’s exhibition showcase. Though George was to play major minutes in Team USA’s front court, Krzyzewski suggested that the Pacers star’s injury has more implications for the wings and guards than it does for bigs like the Sacramento Kings center.

“I don’t think that had any bearing on DeMarcus Cousins,” Krzyzewski said. “Paul’s injury has more of a bearing on with the perimeter and then he potentially could’ve gone to a four also.”

Cousins advances to the next mini camp, which starts Aug. 14 in Chicago. But, the Sacramento Kings starting center still faces stiff competition to make the final roster. Anthony Davis is a guaranteed lock to make the team, which leaves Cousins to battle it out with Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee.

“I thought the week was outstanding,” Kryzyzewski said of last week’s mini camp in Las Vegas. “The effort was terrific. We actually practiced harder, I think, than we have in any of the three previous camps. Although we went hard then, not as hard as this week. The camaraderie we saw develop amongst the players was outstanding so we’re looking forward to Chicago.”

Krzyzewski and USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo continue to stay mum on when they’ll shrink the pool down to 12. They have until Aug. 29, the day before the World Cup tips off in Madrid, to submit a final roster to FIBA officials.

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