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By LARRY VAUGHT
Since he got to Kentucky, DeMarcus Cousins has admitted that he was never in great shape when he played high school basketball and that often he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel challenged in games.
However, Cousins knows now he has to go all-out every second heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on the court or Kentucky coach John Calipari will have him sitting on the bench.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is a new playing style. You have to run or you are not going to play the right way. I mean the way we play you run so much. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why we are not out there long. It is quick spurts and then we sub and then go hard again. But when you are out there, you better run your butt off if you want to stay out there,Ã¢â‚¬Â said the 6-9 freshman.
Teammates have noticed the way Cousins has tried to play. Patrick Patterson, who could be the player who plays harder than anyone in the Southeastern Conference, gave his new teammate a vote of confidence after WednesdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Blue-White Game.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is doing great. He has been learning a lot in practice and running hard all the time,Ã¢â‚¬Â Patterson said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He has been working on staying on the court a lot and not coming off and constantly running as hard as he can up and down the court to get his conditioning up.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is paying off for him, too. He can now run up and down the court for a long period of time without getting tired, something he couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do when he got here.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Freshman teammate Eric Bledsoe played against Cousins in high school in Alabama. He knows better than anyone what a transformation Cousins is trying to make.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think he is doing wonderful. He is scoring, posting up, hustling. When he was in high school, he would not always get up and down the floor hard all the time,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bledsoe, a point guard, said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He would always take plays off. He never went hard all the time. Coach is making him hustle now.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a big difference in his hustle now. I think itÃ‚Â has come easy for him because when he runs the floor, it makes it easy for me and John (Wall) to get the ball to him. We like to run and when we see our big man running, we get him the ball and he scores. He likes to finish, too, and that just makes him want to run even more.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Cousins admits the change has not always been easy.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have bad habits to break. I know I have to play harder. In high school, I could usually score when I wanted. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do that here,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cousins said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Playing against Pat is tough every day and has taught me a lot. He is so skilled. A lot of people didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get to see how skilled he was last year. He is hard to guard and practice against. I have never played against anybody close to him. You have no choice but to go hard or he really makes you look bad.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Patterson says no one had to explain to Cousins that he needed to play much harder this year than he had in the past, something Cousins readily admits that even his mother told him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He came to that conclusion by himself. He knows that he is a big guy and he has to get up and down the court and running is one of the main things we do with this offense and defense. He has taken it upon himself to get better and I respect the way he has gone about it. I know it hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always been easy, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really trying,Ã¢â‚¬Â Patterson said.
Maybe it was just having his mother, Monique Cousins, and other siblings here to watch Wednesday that inspired him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“She was at Midnight Madness, too, and it is good to have that home support. We are close. I miss her. I am a mommaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s boy. She had my brothers and sisters were all here and I love seeing them,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cousins said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is a possibility we can be really good this year if I do my part. Even she tells me that, and thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no way I want to disappoint her or coach Cal.Ã¢â‚¬Â