Posted on: January 20, 2012 2:57 pm

The shot doctor fixes D.J. Cooper's issues

By Jeff Goodman

D.J. Cooper was in a funk. 

Ohio University's standout junior point guard had made just 15-of-64 shots from the field and 6-of-28 shots from beyond the arc in the last four games -- three losses. 

The struggles began with a 3-for-17 performance in a setback to Robert Morris on Jan. 2, continued against Bowling Green and Buffalo -- and then came a brutal 2-for-15 outing in a loss last Saturday at Akron. 

Cooper needed help -- and he got it from an unlikely source. 


Ok, I didn't actually do anything to help Cooper get his shot back, but I'm going to take credit for it, anyway, since he was 6-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep in a 22-point win against Kent State. 

"I'm OK with that," Cooper said on Friday. 

I wound up taking a detour and stopping in Athens, Ohio, on my drive from Huntington, West Va., to Columbus for the Indiana-Ohio State game. Cooper gave me the quick tour of the campus, arena and we also sat down for a quick lunch at Broney's (the wings are big-time). He talked about how he needed to get in the gym more, since teams are daring him to take perimeter shots. 

"They are daring me to shoot it knowing I want to get in the lane and kick it," Cooper said. 

Cooper and the Bobcats had gotten off to a 12-1 start, one that included road wins against Marshall, Northern Iowa and Oakland. However, Ohio has dropped three of its last five. 

One primary difference, Cooper said, was heading into MAC play as the hunted. 

"We had a target -- and we'd never had that before," Cooper said. "The last couple years, we've always entered league play around .500. This was new to us." 

Despite the 2-2 start in league play and the fact that any at-large hopes appear to be out the window now, Cooper comprehends that a few days in March are ultimately what matters most. 

That's because two years ago, Cooper was a freshman on a team that went 7-9 in league play, but ran the table in the league tourney, earned a spot in the Big Dance and then pulled the upset over Georgetown in the first round. 

"We want to win our conference," Cooper said. "Because that'll guarantee us at least an NIT bid. But we also know that it comes down to three days when it's all said and done." 

Cooper is one of the most underrated point guards in the country, averaging 14.3 points, 5.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds. I didn't know his entire story, but he nearly committed to Baylor coming out of high school in Chicago, but opted to go the mid-major route and doesn't regret his decision at all. 

He arrived in Athens as a 145-pound baby-faced freshman and now he's up to about 175 pounds. 

When his shot is falling, he's lethal. Just ask Kent State coach Rob Senderoff. 

Cooper's shooting slump -- for now -- is history.

But if he needs to break out, he's got my number. Soon, they may start calling me the Shot Doctor. 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 27, 2011 3:33 pm

Ohio is the quietest good team in college hoops

By Jeff Goodman

No team has managed to fly under-the-radar more than the Ohio Bobcats. Ohio has just one loss, a close one at Louisville.

The 11 victories? Six have come in the form of true road games, including wins at Northern Iowa, Marshall and Oakland. Not bad for a program that was expected to fall into the abyss after the departure of Armon Bassett, Steven Coleman and Alex Kellogg shortly after the NCAA tournament first-round upset over Georgetown a few years ago.

Bassett, a one-time Indiana guard, got into off-court trouble and put his name in for the NBA Draft. Coleman took a shot at a rap career and Kellogg gave up basketball.

"We lost three starters in five months," Ohio coach John Groce said.

Therefore, the Bobcats coach had no option but to go with the youth movement and after struggling to an 8-11 mark out of the gates, Ohio finished strong, winning 12 of its last 17 and earning a postseason trip to the CBI. But no one -- including Groce -- could have predicted this year's near-flawless start. Ohio was picked to finish third in the MAC. In its division.

However, point guard D.J. Cooper (right) continues to mature and has no shortage of help -- from well-traveled wing Walter Offutt, forwards Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely and a team that Groce said is his deepest since arriving in Athens. Clark Kellogg's other son, Nick, as well as Saint Louis transfer Jon Smith and freshman Stevie Taylor have all been solid and made key contributions.

"We play 10 guys every night," Groce said. "They all play before the 10-minute mark of the first half. We're deeper, they play harder and this is the most cohesive team I've had."

It's also a team that doesn't have a single senior on its roster. Cooper, Baltic and Keely are juniors and were on the team that knocked off Georgetown two seasons ago. Offutt, who began his career at Ohio State, has two years with Groce after leaving Columbus after just a few games as a freshman, then going to Wright State for a brief stint before arriving at Ohio.

"He's athletic, explosive and can rebound and score," Groce said. "He's something we really needed on this team."

Cooper's scoring has dipped, but his overall floor game - and mental makeup - have improved, according to Groce. In fact, the entire team has begun to learn to prepare in an identical manner whether the opponent is Louisville or the sister's of the poor.

"I like the direction we're headed," Groce said. "But we have to keep getting better."

Maybe then people will begin to take notice.

Category: NCAAB
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