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Just 'another game?' Alabama could be test for Cousins' maturity development

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DeMarcus Cousins has taken on a slew of monikers this season. He's played the role of comedian, Peter Parker, Big Cuz, Boogie and even Russian (this picture says it all), but Monday may have been his most intriguing character yet.

Cousins put on his best acting hat in front of the media Monday, rehearsing an act that was in complete contradiction to some candid comments made earlier in the year.

"It's just another game," Cousins said of the Alabama game. "No big deal."

But don't expect an Oscar nomination for this Cousins performance. Just a few months earlier before the Louisville showdown, Cousins had called the Alabama matchup his biggest game of the season.

Somewhere along the line, between his double-doubles and Kentucky's 22-1 record, did Cousins get out a No. 2 pencil and erase the circle around Tuesday's date?

Likely not. Sandwiched between the grins and awkward pauses to bite his tongue, one could read the script going through his head. Barring a brain transplant, Tuesday's Alabama game is likely still Cousins' Super Bowl.

Monday, however, seemingly lacked the media day appeal of last week's Super Bowl game. Head coach John Calipari followed the script and played coy as well.

"I didn't know there was any bad blood in this past with (Cousins and Alabama)," Calipari said. "I have no idea why that would be. Obviously he and Eric (Bledsoe) from being down there, there may be some of that stuff."

What is or isn't going through Cousins' head and what did or didn't happen in Cousins' time in Alabama is up for debate.

What we do know is Cousins has deep Alabama roots having grown up and played in Mobile, Ala. Cousins was recruited by former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried to play for the Crimson Tide and Cousins said he considered attending Alabama before choosing UK.

MBSK 09_10 UK_Ole Miss Web 66.jpgThe 6-foot-11, 260-pound freshman had maturity problems during his high school and AAU ball in Alabama, but judging by his play and attitude of late, it appears those issues are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

"It was just a bad situation," Cousins said of his decision not to go to Alabama. "I'm here now so that's all that matters."

That answer shows that wounds from his home state are still present but bandaged up enough to move on. Three months ago, reporters would have expected nothing short of an open and honest answer from the always candid Cousins.

"He's growing up," Calipari said. "I've not had a player come that far that fast."

And it isn't like he's changed personalities off the court. Although he's riding a school-record streak of six straight double-doubles, he's still the jovial goofball outside the game that has made him both a media and fan favorite.

Take for instance his answer to a question about who he expected to be watching him from the state of Alabama on Tuesday night.

"Probably the whole state," Cousins said as he fought off a laugh. "I wouldn't say it's all friends and family. It's probably more people hoping for the worst more than anything."

But Cousins' play of late has warranted a fast-growing sentiment among the national pundits to place the big man on the ballots for the National Player of the Year race and even atop the NBA draft boards.

The biggest reason is his maturity and consistency. His talent has never been in question.

"I've grown up a lot as a player," said Cousins, who is averaging a team-best 16.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. "My decision making is a lot better. I still have a ways to go in some areas. I've matured more and my (basketball) IQ has gotten better."

One area he still has to grow in is his relationship with the zebras. During a sequence in the first half against LSU on Sunday, Cousins was called for an offensive foul when he swung his elbows after a rebound, prompting the referees to check the replay monitors to see if it was an intentional or flagrant foul.

Cousins was outspokenly upset with the refs after the win over LSU on Sunday for the lack of whistles in favor of him. He reiterated those thoughts again on Monday.

"It's a hard thing getting beat on every single play of the game and probably getting it called 30 percent of the time," Cousins said. "It's hard, but I'm getting used to it. I'm still trying to adjust to it."

Cousins said he's taking the lack of foul calls as a compliment because it means the other teams don't know how to stop him, but he also believes no other big man in the country is taking the type of beating he's suffering on a nightly basis. After a while it starts to take a toll.

"It hurts," Cousins said. "Let me beat on you all day."

His head coach, however, seems to believe that it comes with the territory of being a dominant post player in college. Teams are going to do everything in their power to stop Cousins from continuing this current torrid streak.

"He should ask Shaq (what it was like) when he was in college," Calipari said. "What did they do to him to where he had to leave and go pro? They just put three guys on him and hung and pushed and shoved. It was ridiculous, so no, he's not the only guy."

As Calipari quickly noted, though, it doesn't always feel that way when you're in his shoes. When you're getting beat on every game, leading the No. 2 team in the nation and shadowing your eyes from an ever-growing spotlight, it's hard not to slip up once in a while.

Despite playing under a microscope, he rarely has this season.

Because of the past, Alabama will offer another opportunity for the naysayers to say, "I told you so" about Cousins. But to his credit, whether it was an acting job or not, he's put on his best game face and squashed the hype.

"It's just another game," Cousins said again with that million-dollar smile brimming from ear to ear.

Maybe he can't hide his emotions heading into the Alabama game, but there's no acting job that can cover up the maturity overhaul Cousins has undergone at Kentucky.

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1 Comment

HEY I MAY BE GETING OLD..BUT OMG..I WORKED AT THE ARENA& OMG..LOVES THE GAME &ALL THE PALYER,S.I WORKED WITH WITH A MR. B.JONES& HE WAS VERY NICE TO ME.AND I WAS THERE WITH MR TUBBY SMITH& MRS DONNA.OMG I LOVED IT ALL.I GOT 8 TATTOO OF THE UK ,INEIN ON MY SELF.I BEEN A UK FAN FOR AT 19 YEARS.. MY DEAR OLD DADDY DIE IN MY HEARS ..BEFORE HE PASSED.I TOLD HIM .I LIVE IN LEXINGTON KY,OR AT LAST SEE ONE GAME FOR MY DEAR OLD DADDY..& THAT I HAVE LIVED IN LEXINGTON KY..OMG.GO BIG BLUE..I GOT 8 U.K TATTOO& EARING& EVERTHING IN MY LITTLE APPT6 ..OMG IS BLUE& WHITE

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