Cousins peaking for Runnin’ Panthers

By Joseph Garcia

The recent play of Jesse Cousins (#34) has earned him the right to be a starter for Liberty Hill. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

Liberty Hill senior Jessie Cousins has flown under the radar much of the season, but now the 6-2 forward is making his presence felt as his skills continue to ascend upwards along with his playing time.

With every passing game, Cousins’ contributions have been more noticeable. The 17-year-old defensive standout has transcended his game to the point where he not only leads the team in charges taken, but is a regular contributor on offense as well.

Most recently, Cousins’ play garnered the attention of his coaches, prompting Coach Barry Boren and his staff to elevate his status to a starter, which by his account is one of the best things to ever happen to him.

“I am starting now on varsity for my first time ever,” said Cousins. “When I first figured out I was starting we were in practice and Coach called the starters and he said my name. I thought maybe it was just him showing the other players an example, but I later realized it was for real.”

The Liberty Hill native feels he is much deserving of the distinction after putting in the blood, sweat and tears to improve.

“Yes, I (feel deserving),” he said. “I have been working hard to start for a long time and I have finally gotten a chance.”

Since District 8-3A play began, Cousins has scored in four of the five contests, averaging just over four points a game (4.25) when his name appears in the scoring totals. His style of play might be compared to that of the San Antonio Spurs’ DeJuan Blair with his combination of power, athleticism, finesse, quickness and personality.

Coach Boren said he is pleased with Cousins’ play of late and he could be a key in the team’s success down the road.

“Jessie (Cousins) had been coming off of the bench in relief of Tyler Eyre,” said Boren. “He plays the same position, but he brings a different element to the game. Whereas Tyler is a “bruiser,” Jessie is much more a “finesse” player. He has also honed in on the area of taking charges. He currently leads the team in that category. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. I don’t know what the rest of the season looks like, but I know we are depending on Jessie to play some major minutes.  He has played well of late; we need for that to continue.”

Cousins, whose bother Brady, 15, plays on the freshmen basketball team, started playing the game when he was 8 years old because it was something new he wanted to try. And now, he enjoys playing because every day he feels himself improving, which he calls, “the best feeling ever.”

His favorite athlete is the Miami Heat sharp-shooter Ray Allen. And while Cousins won’t be launching any 3-pointers any time soon, as one of the elder statesman on the varsity team he feels obliged to encourage some of the younger, more inexperienced players in the Runnin’ Panthers’ program, while sticking to his game of taking charges and making key baskets.

“I feel like my role on the team is to keep the younger guys’ heads up when they mess up or aren’t doing very good,” Cousins explained. “My best assets have been taking charges and providing a few points every game.”

When Cousins is not playing or practicing basketball, he enjoys hanging out with teammates. When the basketball season is finally over, he will likely set down the sneakers and strap on the cleats to play one of his passions – baseball.

However, baseball Coach Mike Kristan may have to wait a bit longer for basketball players to move from the gym to the diamond. Cousins and the rest of the Runnin’ Panthers have lofty and very attainable goals.

“The team goals are to win our district and win 30 games,” Cousins said. “And a major goal we have had for a long time is to win state!”