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DeMarcus Cousins came to the University of Kentucky as a hot-tempered 6'11" man-child, and he left as a First-Team All-American selection. The combination of an immense skill set and imposing physical frame was too much for the Southeastern Conference to handle, and Cousins bruised his way through the conference and led the Kentucky Wildcats to the SEC regular season championship and an appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight.
Cousins entered the 2010 NBA Draft, and many teams considered his talent level to be on par with the consensus top pick, John Wall.
However, DeMarcus' supposed attitude and immaturity issues allowed him to slide down to the fifth overall selection in the draft. The Sacramento Kings did not hesitate and they drafted Cousins to form a dynamite duo with rising star Tyreke Evans.
DeMarcus' rookie year was successful, but he was at odds with the head coach at the time, Paul Westphal. This continued into the 2011-12 season as Westphal claimed that Cousins demanded a trade from the team.
Sacramento responded by quickly firing Westphal and chose Keith Smart to serve as the interim head coach. This was the turning point of the season for Cousins, who has since improved dramatically in his second NBA season.
In fact, his 2011-12 season averages rival that of All-Star center Andrew Bynum. Below is a comparison between the two this season:
Both of these players improved their performance tremendously this season, but Cousins is certainly the most surprising of the two. He increased his averages across the board with the exception of assists. The most telling statistic is his PER, which rose seven points from his rookie to his sophomore season and shows the improved efficiency that Cousins displayed this season.
DeMarcus Cousins did lead the NBA in an important category: offensive rebounds. His total on that side of the court led all other players and is indicative of a player who is hungry to find the ball and improved his work ethic. Both of those descriptions fit that of Cousins.
If DeMarcus can continue to improve next season, then he will not be far away from his first All-Star selection and could challenge contemporaries Dwight Howard and Bynum for the title of the best center in the NBA.