College friends adjusting to different roles on team

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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.