There aren't enough parks in Oklahoma to let Isaiah Cousins ball out.
The Sooners' freshman guard grew up playing in parks. He wasn't attracted to the monkey bars or the slide.
He preferred to bop people inside the caged courts of Harlem.
“You know, bop someone,” Cousins said in his thick New York accent. “Like cross over. Break a person down. Break their ankles.”
Cousins' childhood “crib” is located across from the Metro North subway that will take him to downtown New York City in two stops. Right now, though, the 6-foot-3 guard is learning the slower pace of life in the “south” during his first collegiate basketball season, where he's averaging 19.8 minutes per game, 2.6 rebounds per game and has collected a total 20 assists as a starter.
“In New York, everything is on the move. You've always got something to do,” Cousins said. As he talked, he snapped his fingers to a quick rhythm, then stopped and continued. “It's kind of like that in college, a fast pace ... but not like New York. Nothing's better than New York.”
In New York, it's all about fashion. That's what Cousins misses the most. That and a Sausalito sandwich — a spiced turkey sandwich with a “special kind of cheese.” Cousins always bought one from the corner store for $3 with an Arizona Iced Tea.
“Everybody's fly in New York,” Cousins said. “You gotta look good from the head to toe — the watch, the socks, the shoes. They don't joke around with the fashion.”
And they don't joke around with their street basketball, either.
Like most guys in a fast-paced life, Cousins didn't have to ask people to play. He just knew people all around, knew the tournaments in the parks.
“In Harlem, there are several tournaments,” Cousins said. “I used to go there and play. I went to a park in Mount Vernon and there you just play basketball. In Harlem, it's more competition.”
Cousins used to play against Division I athletes and players for the Rockets, Lakers and the NBA's European Development League. He said he never got dunked on or had a man put a lot of points on him.
“That's not my style,” Cousins said with a half smile.
Oklahoma's freshman guard explained that street ball in New York is totally different from the college game. In Harlem, they play with NBA rules.
“In college, you can just sag in the paint,” Cousins said. “In street ball, you can't sag in the paint. It's just one-on-one. So you can just kill your man in the corner. Give him 30 all night.”
Senior forward Romero Osby watches Cousins bring his street-ball toughness to practice daily. Although the starting guard is young, Osby can see that he can play and lead the team by taking the ball down the court after most possessions.
“Guys from New York City are edgy,” Osby said. “They always talk a lot of cash money or as we call or it trash.
“He's tough. He brings an edge. He can get to the basket and make plays that he wants and can really handle the ball for his size.”
That toughness and edge can lead to a player being aggressive. OU coach Lon Kruger said the coaches have talked with Cousins about being a bit more aggressive — like he would if he were playing street ball.
“We also want him to attack and be more aggressive because he's one of the guys we have that can do that,” Kruger said. “And I think we'll see him do that as the year unfolds — to be more aggressive, more intuitive.”
Besides his New York background, Cousins is a quiet kid. He didn't even talk to freshmen Buddy Hield or Je'lon Hornbeak when they all came to Oklahoma.
“He's just quiet,” Hornbeak said. “He wanted to know he could trust us. I don't blame him, being from New York.”
The three freshmen love to listen to music together, especially reggae. Cousins is also known a bit on the team for his dance moves.
“Yeah I can dance a little,” he said after a video appeared of him busting moves at the Old Spice Classic surrounded by the other seven teams of the tournament.
“Are you serious? What am I supposed to tell you?” Cousins said. “I'm tall, light-skinned and handsome. 6-foot-3, smooth dude, know what I mean?”
He's definitely got that New York swag.