The fishbowl DeMarcus Cousins lives in gets bigger by the day, he says. The five-star sophomore from Birmingham, Ala., is starting to realize that.
A year ago, few outside of his Erwin High School knew who he was. Now, at a commanding 6-feet-9, 235-pounds, Cousins is a familiar face on the basketball circuit and more so in his own community.
"I really started getting more attention and me being so young, I had to get used to it," Cousins said. "I'm trying to develop myself to get used to it. I can't even walk into the store and get the milk without someone saying, 'Oh, you're DeMarcus Cousins.'"
People are saying that to him, most of the time not to him but about him, before games. The outcome during the high school year received mixed reviews. Paired against Derrick Favors at the Peach State Classic, Favors unofficially won the battle of the big men.
Cousins didn't finish the year with his Erwin team because of what he called a "bad situation." His focus is now set on getting back to the level he was at last summer, where he climbed to the top spot in the class of 2009 rankings from Rivals.com.
Last weekend, he helped pilot his Birmingham Storm team to the championship of the Southern Shootout. The opposing coach in the championship game said: "He looked every bit of the number one player in the country. We threw everything at him."
Nothing worked. Cousins dominated a big frontline and seemed to get better game to game to game in the first AAU event of the season.
The 16-year-old said he's learned some key life lessons over the last year, on and off the court.
"I need to make sure I'm doing the right thing no matter who is watching me," Cousins said. "I have to stay focused at all times."
That has to transcend on the basketball court, too, he says.
"I have to work my butt off and work on each skill as hard as the other," Cousins said. "I need to work on my defense and my footwork is slow and my ball-handling still needs some work."
On the recruiting front, the interest is there. That has never been in question. UAB, Alabama, LSU, Kentucky, Connecticut, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, UCLA and Texas are showing interest.
Florida, Connecticut, Alabama and UAB have sent coaches out to see him, Cousins said. Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried was the only head coach that came out to watch him, Cousins said. His trips have been nearly non-existent, making a quick trip to nearby UAB for a couple of games this year.
Surprisingly, Cousins said he has not received an official scholarship offer yet from anyone. That could be up for debate and should certainly change.
The offers will come and the fishbowl will only get bigger. The way Cousins rolls with the punches is what is important. And he is starting to grasp that more than ever.