When Anthony Cousin of Anchorage ended his college basketball career at Illinois State University, he opted to settle down rather than chase down professional teams overseas.
After making basketball his priority for a decade, he wanted to appreciate the finer things in life.
“I’ve been catching up on the missed times with my family,” Cousin told me. “I was away for college for some years and wasn’t able to make it home as much. To finally come back and enjoy their time … it was all love.
“I got to see my first niece and nephew’s birth, so a lot of uncle duties were required, but I loved it. Also my brother was diagnosed with cancer, so once I heard that, everything was on pause, even basketball. But my brother wanted me to keep grinding because it’s been his dream as well to see me become successful at the professional level. So that was motivation.”
If anything, being away from the game only cemented his court commitment. He worked on his game, trained hard and traveled to Spain to get more exposure with international teams.
Cousin’s patience, and preparation, paid off nicely as the 5-foot-11 point guard has signed his first professional basketball contract with Jedinstvo, a Euroleague team out of the first division in Montenegro.
“It’s unreal. Growing up I had dreams of going pro but the way my previous situations have been I thought my dreams were over,” Cousin said. “By that I’m referring to my college years; senior year I didn’t play at all. I didn’t have the stats or a strong enough resume to get me anywhere. But with God, faith and a strong support cast, my dreams became a reality. To this day I’m still in shock.”
Cousin, of South High fame, was the Alaska runner-up for player of the year in 2008. He went to Butler Community College in Kansas and in 2010 helped the team win its first league title in nine years. From there he went to Illinois State of the Missouri Valley Conference and helped the team reach the NIT Sweet 16 in 2012.
He averaged 19.9 minutes, 4.3 points and 1.8 assists in 92 career games with Illinois State.
Cousin said he’s a better player than he was in college, he said, thanks to the tutelage of personal trainers, private coaches and professional representation.
“Yes, I can say I’m ready for the pro level. I worked hard day after day with trainers who trained guys at this level for a whole year. I believe in my hard work so now it’s time to put it to the test,” he said. “I think this was the best opportunity for me. I took the long route, but I never lost hope, so I feel this was well deserved.”
He didn’t know much about Montenegro, and he had never heard of Jedinstvo. But he’s all-in now.
“I got the call, told my family and packed up right away. I’m here now so I kinda know a little,” he said. “My role is to run the point and run it well. Run sets and run them properly while also attacking in transition as well. Put points on the board and to contribute as much as possible on both ends.”
The game is played differently in Europe than in the United States, but Cousin isn’t worried. Playing the right way translates in any language.
“I know it’s slower than the States, a lot of pick and roll basketball, less individual play,” he said. “That’s a huge advantage on my side.”