DeMarcus Cousins' recent decision to attend Memphis will give the Tigers a game-changing post player for the 2009-10 season. Cousins (Mobile, Ala./LeFlore) is the top center prospect in the 2009 class and the No. 4 prospect overall.
With Cousins, coach John Calipari's recruiting class, which also includes the nation's top prospect Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City/Putnam City) is among the most talented in the nation. Cousins' commitment serves as further proof of John Calipari's ability to recruit with the best of them.
In terms of sheer talent, Cousins has all the tools to be a great player at the college level. In fact, USC commit Renardo Sidney (Los Angeles/Fairfax) is the only other big man with this type of versatility in the 2009 recruiting class. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound center has broad shoulders, long arms and soft hands. He possesses the skills of a small forward in a center's body; Cousins has demonstrated the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. His offensive dominance begins in the low post. He has a strong frame and when he is committed to receiving catches near the basket he becomes almost unstoppable. He has soft touch and good instincts when playing on the low blocks. His go-to move with his back to the basket is on the right block, where he likes to ball-fake middle and spin baseline to his right hand. What makes him special is in his ability to pass the ball, especially out of the post against double-teams. He displays poise and patience, which is unique for a young big man.
Cousins' offensive skills extend well beyond the paint. He can be an extremely effective player in the high post -- shooting, passing or driving the ball. One of Cousins favorite moves is to catch the ball midpost and then turn, face and attack his defender with a jumper or drive to the basket. It's difficult for other big men to guard him off the dribble. When you put him behind the 3-point line, Cousins can knock down the long-range jumper or take a few dribbles that lead to hand-off action. On the glass, he has been consistent at both ends, aggressively pursuing his teammates' missed shots. LeFlore coach Otis Hughley deserves a lot of credit for Cousins' development. Cousins has shown a passion and toughness that wasn't there when he was an underclassman -- he willingly steps in and takes charges on the defensive end. Hughley has given Cousins the tough love to grow and mature.
Cousins will fit into Memphis' dribble-drive offense very comfortably. The Tigers' system will give him chances to create plays for himself and his teammates, post up with four teammates spread around the arc, and play in a two-man game.
I spoke with Cousins after he made his commitment, and he said he thought Memphis was a place where he could grow both on and off the court. He also knows that he needs to work on all aspects of his game, particularly his strength.
His mother, Monique Cousins, also came away impressed when Cousins visited Memphis this weekend.
"Coach Calipari was so honest in telling DeMarcus that it was not going to be easy and he was going to work for everything he gets," she said.
With Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans flourishing as freshmen at Memphis the past two seasons, Calipari is one of the country's best at helping young players reach their potential. That will be a key for this 2009 group. Memphis class has an abundance of talented players who will make an immediate impact. In addition to Cousins and Henry, the Tigers have commitments from SG Nolan Dennis (Richland Hills, Texas) and junior-college forwards Will Coleman and Darnell Dodson -- both of Miami Dade College.
The Tigers aren't done with their '09 class. Calipari is looking for a playmaking point guard to round it out. Top-10 prospect John Wall (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) and Eric Bledsoe (Birmingham, Ala./Parker) are among the players Memphis is pursuing for that spot.
Paul Biancardi is a veteran of the coaching ranks with years of college experience. He has recruited on a national level with stops as an assistant coach at Boston University and Boston College, associate head coach at Ohio State and most recently as an assistant at Saint Louis University. Biancardi was head coach at Wright State University from 2003 to 2006. In 2003, he was named Horizon League Coach of the Year. He is a selection committee member for the prestigious McDonald's All-America Game and the Gatorade Player of the Year award.