Battle In Birmingham: DeMarcus Cousins vs Derrick Favors

Battle In Birmingham:  DeMarcus Cousins vs Derrick Favors
Jan 16, 2009, 04:45 pm
The University of Alabama-Birmingham played host to a high school showdown between #7 ranked South Atlanta HS (GA) and #9 ranked LeFlore HS (AL). The game also pegged elite big men Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins against in a matchup to help decide who is the top big man in the class of 2009.

Favors proved to get the better end of this battle on the stat sheet, but it was Cousins who walked away with a convincing 78-66 victory. It was an impressive outing for both of these big men, though, forcing us to take a closer look at their performances and how they've progressed since AAU season.

Derrick Favors, 6'9, Power Forward, South Atlanta HS, 2009, Committed to Georgia Tech
36 Points, 19 Rebounds, 4 Blocks

Favors (#4 Rivals, #1 Scout, #2 ESPN) has already been covered quite in depth by DraftExpress over the years, so there is no reason to be redundant about the strengths that he already has. It's not hard to tell that you're looking at a very intriguing prospect when you see a player standing 6'9 with great length, terrific leaping ability, a promising frame, and a desire to defend. Rather than spend time on what we have already established about Favors, we opt to track the progress that he has made since we last evaluated him over the summer.

The most glaring change in Favors' game since we last saw him was certainly his ability to shoot the basketball from the perimeter. Always known as a player who strictly played within 8 feet of the basket, he has been working on expanding his game drastically over the last few months. Against Cousins and LeFlore, Favors showed off a gorgeous perimeter jumper that extended all the way out to the three point line. By our count, he drilled 6 jumpers from 15 feet and beyond, including one deep 3-pointer.

Favors also appears to have improved his ball-handling skills and even his footwork on the blocks. He displayed a nice right handed jump hook with a few counter moves, though it was still very clear that he preferred to go to his right instead of his left. The future Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket still has a considerable amount of work to do on his passing skills however, given the double teams that he will likely face at the collegiate level.

Favors was a force on the defensive end, rebounding the ball with great tenacity and blocking quite a few shots (certainly more than he was credited for) while staying out of foul trouble. He must improve upon his lateral foot-speed if he hopes to guard power forwards who like to face the basket, but there is unquestionably a significant amount of potential for the senior on this side of the ball.

Much of Favors’ role at Georgia Tech will depend upon whether star sophomore Gani Lawal declares for this year's NBA Draft. If Lawal sticks around, the Yellow Jackets will have a loaded frontline with Favors, Lawal, and the promising Alade Aminu. However if Lawal bolts to the NBA, there will be an immediate amount of playing time for Favors, including a significant role in the GT offense. Paul Hewitt has been known not to be shy about throwing his heralded freshman into the fire, starting with Chris Bosh and Jarrett Jack, as well as Javaris Crittenton, Thaddeus Young, and current freshman Iman Shumpert. Hewitt also has a reputation for developing players for the next level, which will bode well for Favors who appears to have a very solid work ethic. While it's a bit premature to say that Favors is a sure fire one and done player, he definitely has as good of a chance as any player in the class to bolt after his freshman campaign as long as he continues to develop at this rate.

DeMarcus Cousins, 6'10, Power Forward/Center, LeFlore HS, 2009, Considering UAB, Memphis, Washington, Kansas State, NC State, Wake Forest
21 Points, 12 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 5 Blocks, 1 Turnover, 9-13 FG

Cousins (#2 Rivals, #6 Scout, #4 ESPN) wasn't quite as dominant statistically as Favors, though he offered a vastly superior skill set during his performance. It was at times shocking to see a player of his stature move around the hardwood so gracefully while maintaining great body control and court presence. This game served as a reminder of how good Cousins can ultimately become if he exerts consistent effort and maximizes his talents.

The physical package is certainly there for DeMarcus, whether he opts to play power forward or center at the next level. Every bit of 6'10, he is already a massive 270 pounds and has a freakish wingspan that was measured at 7'6 at the 2008 LeBron James Skills Academy. Though carrying a bit of extra weight, he is surprisingly nimble and possesses solid quickness both laterally and off the dribble. Equally as impressive is his ability to get off of the ground, leaving some optimism as to how good of a leaper he could ultimately become if he toned his body. Cousins runs the floor well at times, but there are also instances when his sub-par conditioning and desire come into play, and he is one of the last players down the hardwood.

The Alabama native's offensive game is largely based around his ability to face the basket, which can be frustrating at times. He showed off a very smooth, effortless jumper from the perimeter against South Atlanta's 2-3 zone, drilling one 3-pointer and a number of 17-19 foot jumpers. He exhibited the ability to take Favors off of the dribble with his nifty perimeter skills, exhibited by a gorgeous drive to the rim that finished with a spin move and power dunk. There were a number of other drives to the rim and instances of the big man handling the ball in the open court that were awfully impressive, though it made one ponder if that is really what they want a player of his size doing on a consistent basis.

Even more impressive though was Cousins’ ability to pass the ball. Constantly keeping his head up, he was able to find the open man on a regular basis when faced with a double team. The stat sheet reflected this based on his 5 assists with one lone turnover, and the senior could have had a handful more assists had his teammates done a better job of finishing. This ability is going to translate immediately at the collegiate level due to the fact that at all of the programs recruiting him (with the exception of Wake Forest and Louisville), he will likely be the focal point of the post offense and will certainly be faced with multiple defenders consistently.

It is often times frustrating to see Cousins hang out on the perimeter as frequently as he does, when he could really be a massive force in the pivot if he desired to do so. Granted South Atlanta's compacted zone forced him out on the perimeter more often this game, but he is a player who still feels more comfortable doing his damage outside then in the paint. Even in the other times we observed, he opted to go to turnaround jumpers out of the post rather than power moves, which needs to change if he wants to become the dominant big man he has the potential to be.

There is a considerable amount of potential in Cousins as a defender, with the natural gifts and size he was blessed with. Showing very nice timing, he is able to block (and alter) a large number of shots with his big body and long arms. Likewise, Cousins is able to take up a ton of space around the rim with that body for rebounding, though he tends to rely on his size a bit much at times instead of fundamental boxing out. His rotations were very good last night, as seen by the two charges that he drew against South Atlanta players. How good of a defender Cousins wants to be is going to eventually come down to what sort of effort he chooses to exert on this end.

Cousins will have the opportunity to immediately come in and make a considerable impact at any of the schools that he has listed, given his combination of size, length, and offensive skills. His effort lapses and conditioning must improve if he hopes to reach his maximum draft potential, but he is certainly a player who will be closely followed by NBA scouts next season. As for where the big man will actually play next year, much still depends on whether or not UAB retains Mike Davis for 09-10. If they keep the former Indiana coach around for another campaign, it would be tough to see him landing anywhere else. However, without any assurance that Davis will be in Birmingham next season, this big man could very well take his services elsewhere—maybe even to Europe.

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