NBA Draft: Ex-Seton star D.J. Cooper is an undersized, intriguing player
BY PATRICK Z. MCGAVIN For Sun-Times Media June 25, 2013 9:08PM
Ohio v Bowling Green
Updated: June 25, 2013 10:08PM
D.J. Cooper has a place in the record books, but history is against him.
The former Seton star guard amassed unprecedented career numbers during his distinguished four years at Ohio University. He’s the only guard in Division I history to have at least 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals.
The 5-10 left-handed point guard ended his college career on a personal high note as the player of the year in the Mid-American Conference after averaging 14 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals for the Bobcats.
Most important, Cooper engineered three stunning upsets in the NCAA tournament, helping the Bobcats stun Georgetown his freshman year, then pulling off back-to-back upsets of Michigan and South Florida his junior season.
“I think that’s what got me recognized with the NBA people,” Cooper said. “The fact that I did well in the tournament against good teams.”
Cooper’s background seemingly makes him an interesting player in the NBA draft, which takes place Thursday in Brooklyn. The draft is predicated on art as much as science.
Cooper, Illinois guard Brandon Paul and former Proviso West star Robert Covington (Tennessee State) are the top-rated local players of a down group only a year after former Perspectives-MSA star Anthony Davis was the No. 1 overall pick.
ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford rates Cooper No. 60 in this year’s draft-eligible class, followed by Paul (70) and Covington (75).
After playing his first three years at Hales, Cooper transferred to Seton his senior year and led the Sting to a Class 2A state title in 2009. Despite his remarkably consistent college career, he enters the next phase of his career with more questions than answers.
“He’s considered undersized and not a great athlete, and those are the strikes against him,” said Mike Naiditch, Cooper’s Chicago-based agent. “He’s won at every level, high school and college, and that’s not by accident.”
Cooper conducted individual workouts with the Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wizards and Magic. Portland has three second-round picks. Orlando tracked his career at Ohio closely, Naiditch said.
“I think the strengths of my game are my passing and how I make guys better on the court,” he said. “I bring the other strengths of the guys on the court out, and that’s what point guards are supposed to do.”
Brandon Hunter, a late-second-round pick of the Celtics in 2003, was the last Ohio University player drafted.
At 6-4, Paul is blessed with “prototypical shooting-guard size with legitimate NBA shooting range,” his agent, Jim Tanner, said. He has many personal highlights to hang on, the most impressive a 43-point outburst against Ohio State on an ESPN national broadcast his junior year. Paul entered his senior year at Illinois as a potential first-round pick. His inconsistency has dropped his stock.
“He’s had very good private workouts, and I think he’s answered those concerns [about inconsistency],” Tanner said. “He’s worked out for most teams drafting in the final third of the first round, including the Bulls.”
Despite a knee injury, the 6-9 Covington averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists his senior year.