While many pundits thought that Cousins would not make the 12-man roster, the 6-foot-11 Alabama native never had any doubts. Not even after he suffered a knee injury in the first practice on Aug. 14 after the 16 finalists for the 2014 USA Men’s National Team reassembled in Chicago to resume training.
“To be honest, I was pretty confident about making the team,” Cousins said. “The injury was something I didn’t want to happen, but even through the injury I was pretty confident I was going to make the team.
Turns out Cousins had plenty of justification to be so self-assured: Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN.com that Cousins has cemented himself as the backup to starting center
Cousins was the fourth player off the bench in the U.S.’s victory over Slovenia on Aug. 26. According to Stein the rotation in that game confirmed that he's firmly part of the "core group" of nine players so often referenced by Krzyzewski since this team started practicing together in late July.
Stein continued, “For all the skepticism about his ability to win over Team USA staffers who haven't forgotten his poor first impression in 2012 -- as well as the questions that linger about how he'll get along with FIBA referees -- Cousins is clearly ahead of fellow bigs Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond. (Ditto for 10th man DeMar DeRozan.)”
“With that situation, it was pretty over hyped,” Cousins explained. “There was never any bad blood. To say we have history is over hyped…Me and Jerry talked about it, and he said the same thing, that it was blown out of proportion. That is what the media does to make a story.”
The next summer Cousins returned to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp in Las Vegas. He played in the 2013 USA Basketball Showcase and recorded six points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
“I was still part of the USA Basketball team, still part of the Select Team, still one of those guys. That right there should let you know there was never any bad blood.”
Cousins appeared in three of the U.S.’s four exhibition games and averaged 5.3 points in 14.3 minutes of action. He shot only 43 percent from the floor (7-of-19) but he hit the boards hard, hauling in 6.3 a game and collected eight offensive rebounds. Cousins also registered two blocks and four steals.
With the inclusion of Drummond and Plumlee along with Cousins and Davis, the U.S. for the first time under Krzyzewski has four players 6-foot-10 or taller.