Boogie and the Rookie

Find out how DeMarcus’ leadership is making an impact on and off the court.

BY: STEVEN WILSON

Shortly after the Sacramento Kings selected Nik Stauskas with the eighth-overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, DeMarcus Cousins posted a Tweet welcoming his newest teammate to the Kings family. 

Since then, a bond has formed between newcomer and star.

“That’s my guy,” said Sacramento’s 6-foot-11 center, following his second installment of Team USA mini-camp practice on Tuesday. 

Cousins has taken the rookie under his wing, showing Stauskas the ropes of the NBA, and the two have quickly developed a friendship off the hardwood as well. 

Even during his Team USA training, No. 15 has kept in contact with Stauskas. The Kings leader described his point of view to a swarm of media following the first day of mini-camp.

“What I like most about Nik is how under control he is,” said the Kings big man. “He’s never rattled, he’s always poised, he’s always looking to make the right play and not the play he wants to make. You don’t really find that in a lot of rookies.”

Stauskas’ ability to make plays off the dribble, shoot with a quick release and put his team in a position to succeed were all traits that stood out to Sacramento’s front office on Draft Day. 

“I love his shooting ability,” said Kings Advisor to the Chairman Chris Mullin. “But I think he’s going to be more than that. I think he’s going to be a really good playmaker, [someone] people will like to play with, and I think over time, he’ll be able to create off the dribble.”

After Stauskas shook off initial nerves during his first Summer League practice, he displayed his full arsenal, posting three impressive performances. 

In his first contest as a pro, No. 10 scored 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field, while adding three assists and two steals. Over the next two games, the Michigan alum combined for 25 points en route to two Sacramento victories.

His performances didn’t go unnoticed.

“Nik looked good for a rookie,” said Cousins. “He came out there and played a controlled game – you never saw him rattled.

“I saw nothing but good signs [from him].”

In all, the former Wolverine averaged 9.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2 assists per game as he helped the Kings capture the Summer League title.

Although he kept up to date on the team’s final performance at Summer League from afar, Cousins again reached out to his teammates through Twitter and amplified Stauskas’ celebratory Tweet.

While social media has made it easier than ever for players to stay in touch and demonstrate their support, the Kentucky product’s commitment to growing as a leader has been recognized.

“The fact he went through [all of our mini-camp practices] shows his commitment, his willingness to set the tone and establish a relationship with our new player in Nik, as well as continue to work with Ben and Ray,” said Kings Head Coach Michael Malone recently.

Cousins’ teammates echo the sentiment.

“You don’t see too many superstars come in for Summer League playing with the guys,” said Quincy Acy earlier in July. “It says a lot about him and his character. He’s just a very personable guy – I think a lot of people don’t know that about him, but once you get to know him, he’s a fun guy. It says a lot about him and what he means to this team.”

No. 5 was just one of the many Kings players who benefited from Cousins’ mini-camp appearances. His level of physicality and experience advanced the level of competition exponentially in each workout.

On Tuesday, Sacramento’s second-year head coach repaid the favor.

“I believe in him, I love him, I care about him – and I want him to know that he is supported by Pete D’Alessandro, by Vivek [Ranadivé] and (I),” said Malone, who visited Cousins at National Team training in Las Vegas.

With the support of the front office, his coach and his teammates, Team USA’s No. 36 is demonstrating his ascent as a leader and impact player is just beginning to emerge.

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