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DMC Earns Team USA Bid

Find out how No. 15 has impressed USA Basketball National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo and teammates Harden, Irving and Davis, as the Kings center secures a 2014 World Cup roster spot.
by Alex Kramers Contributor

Hours before learning he was officially named to the 12-man Team USA roster, DeMarcus Cousins – decked in a navy windbreaker with a pair of glistening gold headphones draped around his neck – reiterated competing in the 2014 FIBA World Cup would mark his proudest and most important basketball accomplishment to date.

“I’ve said it time and time again – it’s a goal of mine for this summer,” said Cousins post-game Friday. “It’s a huge honor. Who wouldn’t want to represent their country?”

Although a knee injury caused him to miss valuable practice time and the squad’s first exhibition contest on Aug. 16, the Kings center discloses he’s fully recovered from the setback and has methodically studied and aimed to execute the coaching staff’s game plan.

“The thing is, it’s not about me showing what I can do – they know what I can do. It’s just about learning the whole scheme of what they’re trying to do out here,” he explained. “The injury kind of set me back in learning the whole scheme, but I’m trying to learn it on the fly and trying to learn it as fast as possible.”

No. 15’s familiarly with the USA Basketball program from training with the 2012 Select Team and scrimmaging against the gold-medal-winning Olympic Team helped streamline the process.

“You know what to look forward to coming in, so that experience helped out a lot,” he said. “I did two years, I believe, so you know what to expect.”

Ready to take the next step in his basketball journey, the Mobile. Ala. native made a strong case for a World Cup roster spot as one of the team’s leading rebounders in exhibition play – pulling down a team-high eight boards in 16 minutes against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. The physically-imposing big man also recorded the only double-double in the USA Basketball Showcase on Aug. 1, finishing with 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

“DeMarcus does what he does best, and that’s crashing the glass, taking up so much space in the paint and just wearing (opposing) bigs out,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “Also, he has great touch. He has a bright future.”

Against Puerto Rico on Friday, Cousins yet again aggressively attacked the boards, as two of his three offensive rebounds resulted in tip-in baskets.

“DeMarcus is a great player – he definitely does a great job on the floor, and I love playing with him,” said Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis. “He definitely is a big body, creates space in the lane and rebounds the ball. We try to give him the ball on the block as much as we can so he can go to work.”

USA Basketball National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo similarly raves about the fifth-year center’s resilient effort in boxing out and agitating opponents with his size and strength, as well as setting the tone with his bruising inside game.

“What he brings in the way of attributes is that he’s a strong low-post center – probably the strongest of the group that we have,” said Colangelo pre-game Friday, adding Cousins has strived to adjust to the faster style of play. “He seems very eager and hungry to make this team.”

While he wasn’t taking a final roster spot for granted, the Kings center felt confident he put himself in prime position to help Team USA triumph in the Spain-hosted tournament.

“(I bring) size and physicality,” he said. “So when we come up against those bigger teams, I think we’ll have a better chance.”

No. 15’s Team USA teammates recognize the Kentucky product’s essential contributions distinguish him from the squad’s crop of diverse big men and may prove to be deciding factors in international competition.

“There are going to a couple of teams out there (against which) we need him,” said 2012 Olympic gold medalist and Rockets All-Star James Harden. “Obviously, he’s a great player – he can shoot the ball really well – and once he gets in his rhythm, he’ll be pretty good. (He’s) a physical presence – a big, strong guy in the paint.”

“I think (he brings) competitive fire and toughness, as well – we’re going to need that going over to Spain, and we’ll see what happens,” said Cavaliers All-Star Kyrie Irving. “He’s doing a heck of a job of just continuing to be consistent every day in practice and every day in the games when he gets minutes.”

Kings teammate and fellow USA representative Rudy Gay has been encouraged by the way Cousins – who ranked in the top ten in points (22.7 per game) and rebounds (11.7) in the NBA last season – has not only continued to fill up the box score, but willingly embraced additional responsibilities for the benefit of the team.

“We all know he can rebound, we all know he can score in the post, so he’s just trying to do other things,” said No. 8. “Roll (to the basket), draw defenders, kick (out the ball), run the floor – all those things we need him to do.

“Obviously, playing a different role (and) doing some different things is only going to help him further in his career.”

Cousins, in fact, divulges his primary objective throughout his Team USA experience is the opportunity to improve every aspect of his game while getting vital feedback from some of the greatest and most-respected players and coaches in the world.

“I’m so excited … I want to come back and be able to teach the young guys on (the Kings) things I’ve learned overseas,” he said. “It’s going to help me become a better leader, help me become a better teammate and I’m going to take back as much as I can.”

Free Throws

- While several NBA stars expressed interest in joining the World Cup roster roster following the devastating injury to Pacers forward Paul George, Gay was the first player to contact Colangelo and Team USA representatives.

“The fact that he basically sought us out … that said something to us,” said Colangeo. “We know Rudy – in terms of him being with us in the past, playing on the Word Championship Team in ’10 – and he can serve a valuable role playing two forward positions.”

- Cousins was pleased to learn Gay’s decision to vie for a spot on the squad came at the recommendation of Kings Chairman and Majority Owner Vivek Ranadivé.

“(Ranadivé) is very supportive of the whole team – not just Rudy and me, but the whole team,” said the Kings center. “It’s good to know your owner has your back like that.”

No. 15 adds the UConn product’s versatility on both ends of the floor will pay major dividends overseas.

“Rudy can guard big forwards – even centers sometimes – and he can post up the smaller guards,” said Cousins. “We can take advantage of (Rudy’s skill set) with a lot of schemes in the game. I think that’s very underrated.”

Team USA Upcoming Schedule

Following a two-day training camp in Gran Canaria, Spain, Team USA is set to play a final exhibition contest on Aug. 26 against Slovenia at 11 a.m. PDT, before the commencement of the FIBA World Cup preliminary round in Bilbao, Spain on Aug. 30.

Round of 16: Sept. 6-7

Quarterfinals: Sept. 9-10

Semifinals: Sept. 11-12

Bronze Medal Game: Sept. 13

Gold Medal Game: Sept. 14