The general college basketball audience has never gotten to know Ohio guard D.J. Cooper quite as well as it should have.
Excluding a handful of memorable tournament performances — his undressing of Georgetown as a freshman during Ohio’s 14-over-3 upset win, the championship performance he delivered last year to will the Bobcats past Akron for the Mid-American Conference title and his 21-point effort that followed to key the team’s opening round upset of fourth-seeded Michigan — the scintillating southpaw has been a must-see game-changer that most fans, sadly, haven’t had the chance to see.
In the spirit of March — Cooper’s time of the year — let’s change that. May the eyes of the hoops world zero in on the preseason MAC Player of the Year in light of his newest (albeit obscure) milestone.
Cooper became the first player in NCAA history on Tuesday to record 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals in his outstanding career. The senior guard buried his patented, NBA-range trey in the first half against Buffalo to lift his career scoring total to 2,002 points. And he didn’t call it a night then and there.
The soft-spoken superstar sunk a go-ahead 3 with 1:34 to play in the second half, handing the Bobcats a one-point lead they would not relinquish. Thanks to Cooper’s heroics, the Bobcats remain just one game off the pace in the MAC, trailing only in-state rival Akron. The Zips had their nation-best 19-game winning streak snapped over the weekend in Alumni Arena, the same venue where Cooper made history at Buffalo’s expense on Tuesday.
The Mid-American Conference’s all-time assist leader and the only Bobcat to eclipse the 2,000-point threshold, Cooper has long been cheated out of the attention he’s deserved. Major sports networks champion high-major conferences because of the lucrative earnings potential these larger leagues can offer. As a result, most of the country has been shut out of MAC hoops and the cherished Cooper legend.
No broadcast rights deal, however, can deny Cooper his place in history. Short of Akron, there isn’t another team capable of denying him one last hurrah on the March Madness stage either.
Expect to hear from this unheralded superstar again in two weeks, this time in the one domain where you’ve probably seen him before.