Aubrey Coleman

As he waited for his former college roommate Marcus Cousin to finish showering after Saturday’s 105-103 overtime win against New Mexico, newly acquired Austin Toros guard Aubrey Coleman stressed the importance of their relationship.

“When I got picked up, it was comforting to see that I knew someone here,” he said. “In this league, guys are always moving from team to team, and it was nice to see a familiar face.”

As Cousin stepped out of the locker room, the pair shared a smile and a handshake, congratulating each other on the win. Their friendship dates back two years, when the two roomed together as teammates at the University of Houston. Cousin and Coleman both landed with the Cougars after short stints with Seton Hall and Southwest Mississippi Community College, respectively.

The two played different roles while in college, with Coleman leading the team in scoring during his two years there, even winning an NCAA scoring title for the 2009-2010 season. Cousin helped out by leading the team in rebounds and being a presence down low.

“He was king out there,” Cousin said of Coleman. “I was just trying to crash the boards and get what I could.”

They provided an effective one-two punch, with Cousin controlling the paint and erasing opponent’s shots, while Coleman would either drive to the basket or drain open looks. In all of their time together, the two have meshed as friends on and off the court.

“We know each other’s moves,” Coleman said. “I know he’s going to go inside and fight for position, and I can look for him to screen for me, too, so I can get open.”

They share a rare connection in the NBA Developmental League, which is full of journeymen and rehabbing big-leaguers.

“[Coleman] is a driver, and I know he likes to shoot, so we help each other out a lot,” Cousin said. “It’s easy for us to think ahead and figure out what the other is going to do.”

Coleman and Cousin also became close with each other’s families while they played at Houston. Coleman’s family was merely minutes away in the Fort Bend area, while Cousin’s mother, Toni, visited regularly from Cousin’s hometown of Baltimore, Md.

Toni Cousin, along with her husband Marcus Sr., were in attendance Saturday, sitting right behind the Toros bench and occasionally offering praise or instruction to the two.

“They did everything together in college,” she said. “I would come and stay with them for three weeks at a time, and I can’t tell you how much banana pudding I made for those boys. Both of them have really big hearts and are great kids.”

Now that the two friends are back on the same team, they are hoping to build on the rapport they shared in college. Coleman and Cousin have both quickly become key contributors for the Toros, each averaging around 15 points a contest. Cousin is a force in the paint, grabbing timely rebounds and making huge defensive plays, like his block on New Mexico’s final shot attempt with two seconds left in regulation over the weekend. On the other hand, Coleman is learning that he can make an impact in the game with his new role, which sees him coming off the bench and providing a spark.

“I had to do all the scoring in college,” he said. “I’m still new to this team, so I have to find my spot.”

As the pair walked off to meet Cousin’s family for lunch, it was apparent that their relationship was deeper than just playing basketball together. And with the two reunited, it has no signs of diminishing.

Just a few minutes into Saturday’s game against New Mexico, and the Austin Toros were already down big.

Maybe it was the early noon start time, or maybe the Toros were tired from the beating they took at the hands of the same New Mexico team on Thursday, a televised 93-104 loss. Whatever the cause, the Thunderbirds had already jumped out to a 10-0 lead against the Toros.

But then, Austin began to claw their way back into it. Thanks to a couple of small scoring spurts, the Toros cut a 14-point deficit down to three at halftime.

The second half started at the Cedar Park Center and saw much of the same — the Toros keeping it close. Close enough — and buoyed by 80-percent free throw shooting and a staunch defense — that a Kevin Palmer layup with 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter tied the game at 99. The game went into overtime, and the Toros managed to pull out a gutsy, come-from-behind 105-103 win. And that, you could say, has been the tale of their season so far.

“For some reason, this team likes to start slow and come from behind,” said forward Leo Lyons. “We’re still working on that, but we’re trying to fix it.”

On Saturday, the Toros were able to close the gap. The rest of the season, however, has been a different story. They currently sit second-to-last in the West Conference standings at 12-15, just one year after advancing to the semifinals of the NBA Developmental League playoffs.
But things are looking up. Half of the season remains to be played, and if Austin can avoid any more major tumbles (they lost six straight games earlier in the season), they could play their way into playoff contention.

“I feel like we’re a tough team, but sometimes we just have our lapses where we’re not as sharp as we need to be,” said forward Lance Thomas. “But I think we’re figuring it out. We realize that we have to give our best every game, so we’re making strides.”

A couple of mid-season acquisitions should continue to give the team an extra boost. Lyons and guard Aubrey Coleman, the NCAA scoring leader a year ago at Houston, both came to the team in early January after stints overseas. Both have been upgrades for the Toros, as Coleman is scoring 16 points per game and Lyons is displaying the well-rounded overall game that got him noticed in college at Missouri, averaging 10 points and nearly six rebounds per contest. But both have had to make adjustments to fit in with their new team, learning the schemes and fitting in to their expected roles.

“I’ve been learning on the fly, trying to get used to the new system,” Coleman said. “In college, they ran the plays through me and now I’m coming off the bench. I don’t just worry about scoring now. I have to play defense and rebound and do the little things to help the team win.”

Head coach Brad Jones has been able to find a nice rotation on a team stacked with young and improving players. Lance Thomas, a NCAA champion last year at Duke, has put in hours of work on his jump shot and continues to improve. Starting center Marcus Cousin might be the most NBA-ready player on the team, averaging almost 15 points and nine rebounds per game. Point guard Carldell Johnson, a fan favorite and Toros veteran of four years, paces the team with six assists per game.

The Toros have their eyes on the playoffs. The climb will be steep, but they’re used to that.

As he waited for his former college roommate Marcus Cousin to finish showering after Saturday’s 105-103 overtime win against New Mexico, newly acquired Austin Toros guard Aubrey Coleman stressed the importance of their relationship.

“When I got picked up, it was comforting to see that I knew someone here,” he said. “In this league, guys are always moving from team to team, and it was nice to see a familiar face.”

As Cousin stepped out of the locker room, the pair shared a smile and a handshake, congratulating each other on the win. Their friendship dates back two years, when the two roomed together as teammates at the University of Houston. Cousin and Coleman both landed with the Cougars after short stints with Seton Hall and Southwest Mississippi Community College, respectively.

The two played different roles while in college, with Coleman leading the team in scoring during his two years there, even winning an NCAA scoring title for the 2009-2010 season. Cousin helped out by leading the team in rebounds and being a presence down low.

“He was king out there,” Cousin said of Coleman. “I was just trying to crash the boards and get what I could.”

They provided an effective one-two punch, with Cousin controlling the paint and erasing opponent’s shots, while Coleman would either drive to the basket or drain open looks. In all of their time together, the two have meshed as friends on and off the court.

“We know each other’s moves,” Coleman said. “I know he’s going to go inside and fight for position, and I can look for him to screen for me, too, so I can get open.”

They share a rare connection in the NBA Developmental League, which is full of journeymen and rehabbing big-leaguers.

“[Coleman] is a driver, and I know he likes to shoot, so we help each other out a lot,” Cousin said. “It’s easy for us to think ahead and figure out what the other is going to do.”

Coleman and Cousin also became close with each other’s families while they played at Houston. Coleman’s family was merely minutes away in the Fort Bend area, while Cousin’s mother, Toni, visited regularly from Cousin’s hometown of Baltimore, Md.

Toni Cousin, along with her husband Marcus Sr., were in attendance Saturday, sitting right behind the Toros bench and occasionally offering praise or instruction to the two.

“They did everything together in college,” she said. “I would come and stay with them for three weeks at a time, and I can’t tell you how much banana pudding I made for those boys. Both of them have really big hearts and are great kids.”

Now that the two friends are back on the same team, they are hoping to build on the rapport they shared in college. Coleman and Cousin have both quickly become key contributors for the Toros, each averaging around 15 points a contest. Cousin is a force in the paint, grabbing timely rebounds and making huge defensive plays, like his block on New Mexico’s final shot attempt with two seconds left in regulation over the weekend. On the other hand, Coleman is learning that he can make an impact in the game with his new role, which sees him coming off the bench and providing a spark.

“I had to do all the scoring in college,” he said. “I’m still new to this team, so I have to find my spot.”

As the pair walked off to meet Cousin’s family for lunch, it was apparent that their relationship was deeper than just playing basketball together. And with the two reunited, it has no signs of diminishing.