In tonight’s NBA Rookie Challenge, former Cats John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe will reunite again as they join forces with five other NBA rookies to face the sophomore team led by Cousins’ teammate Tyreke Evans. At the mid-point of their first professional season, they’ve each enjoyed success on the court, but the two players tasked with being a face of their franchises – Wall and Cousins – have experienced drastically different journeys.
As Michael Lee of the Washington Post points out in this morning’s edition of the paper, John Wall is learning to become the team’s leader and is welcoming his role as the team’s new marketable face. Wall’s comfort in leading the Wizards apparently stems from his time at UK, where John Calipari implored him to become the trusted voice in the locker room for what was, arguably the nation’s most talented team. An excerpt:
Wall believed he always had “leadership capabilities,” but Kentucky Coach John Calipari was the first to tell him that he needed to assume that role as the team’s best player. Wall had already taken a huge step as a leader when he initiated a meeting with Eric Bledsoe, who had signed to play point guard for Kentucky before Wall arrived. Wall not only made it work, with Bledsoe willingly moved over to shooting guard, but became a close friend.
Calipari also implored Wall to push his teammates, encourage them to take open shots and pick up their energy when it waned. At times, Wall was able to get through to talented but temperamental forward DeMarcus Cousins, now of the Sacramento Kings, when others couldn’t.
“No matter where he is, no matter what team he’s on, he’s a leader from Day One,” Cousins said of Wall. “That’s something that was put in him. God’s blessed him with that talent. He’s got it.”
Cousins, meanwhile, hasn’t quite been the reliable rock that a young Kings squad needs. Despite putting up impressive numbers on the court, Boogie has had some issues with his coaches and teammates in the first half of his rookie season and earned himself a segment on Outside The Lines yesterday to discuss. ESPN’s Tim Keown says that the system is partially to blame for the immaturity that Cousins has displayed in his young professional career. Interesting read.