DJ Cooper is a 24 year old 183cm point guard from Chicago that has the American and Bosnian citizenship and is playing his second professional season and first in Russia with Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB). He played at Ohio(NCAA) from 2009-2013 playing a total of 141 NCAA games and as a senior played 33 games averaging 14.1ppg, 3.2rpg, 7.0apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 50.7%, 3PT: 36.0%, FT: 69.9%. Last season as a rookie he played for PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A1, starting five): Eurocup: 10 games: 10.2ppg, 4.7rpg, Assists-2(6.5apg), Steals-4(2.1spg), FGP: 42.5%, 3PT: 37.3%, FT: 57.9%; Greek League: 35 games: 10.6ppg, 4.6rpg, Assists-1(6.5apg), Steals-3(1.7spg), FGP: 53.6%, 3PT: 31.1%, FT: 77.4%. He spoke to German Hoops before the game one of the Eurochallenge quarterfinals in Frankfurt.
DJ thanks for talking to German Hoops. You are playing your second season as a professional. Is this your first visit to Germany? What do you know about the country and its basketball?
This is my first visit to Germany. I know some guys playing in the second and third leagues in Germany. The only one that comes to mind now is Carlton Guyton.
You are playing your first season for Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB). How would you compare the style of play between the Greek league where you balled as a rookie with the VTB league.
It has been a little different this season. The Greek league has good basketball, but I think that the VTB is probably the top league in Europe now. I face top point guards each weekend
Currently Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB) is one of the teams near the end of the standings. Why has the team had difficulty this season not being able to have a better record? Has the loss of ex NBA player Kosta Perovic been a big factor?
Anytime you lose a key player, it hurts and Perovic was a big part of our team. However we lost many close games after usually leading by 10 points or more in the first half. We have to learn to close out games better.
You have played in more than eight countries this season in VTB and Eurochallenge play. Has the travel taken a toll on the team now in the late stage of the season? Is the body starting to feel it?
The travel is very tough. We have one of the toughest travel schedules in Europe. It takes us five hours just to get to Moscow. But you can´t take that as an excuse. We have to come out and play better.
Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB) now play German team Fraport Skyliners in a best of three series with you possibly making two 12 hour flights to Frankfurt? What kind of series can we await?
I think that we will be able to adjust better to the traveling because we are used to it. It will be a good series. They have some young talented players and they like to push the ball. If we can win the first game in Frankfurt then I think we will close out series at home.
The Fraport Skyliners have a very talented rookie in Justin Cobbs who played at California8NCAA) and was this season the last cut for the Charlotte Hornets(NBA) How much are you looking forward to playing him and what do you know about him?
I have watched film on him. He is a good point guard that likes to score. He is a very poised player just like me. I think that he could play in the NBA. I look forward to competing against him.
The team has six players that are 203cm or taller, but no one grabs more than 5,2rpg in the Eurochallenge and have three players shooting 40% or better from outside. What is the teams biggest strength?
Our biggest strength is our offense. We are dominant on the pick and role and have good shooters. Elmeden Kikanovic is a good pick and pop player.
Would you define yourself as a classic point guard? You averaged 6,5apg at Ohio and this season is averaging 9,0apg in the VTB league and 7,8apg in the VTB league?
I am a classic point guard and I think that Europe appreciates my game. I find guys and make them better.
What is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
A hidden strength in my game is rebounding and deflections. I get 8-9 rebounds a game sometimes. I think I am a pretty good rebounder for my position.
How important was it having Pavel Sergeev for you? As a point guard did he give you tips about the league here when you came in?
He is a very experienced guy and great shooter and overall good guy. I have had good experiences with all my teammates.
How challenging was it playing against Courtney Fortson? Despite a 90-85 win, Fortson had a 26 point night?
I see a high quality point guard like him every night in the VTB. Fortson is a good point guard that is always attacking and has a lot of freedom. Going up against Justin Cobbs Is just like another night in the VTB
Last season you played for PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A1) leading the league in assists. What was your wake up call to being a professional player in Europe during that season?
My wake up call was getting my first pay check. The whole experience in Europe has been great
One hears the craziest stories about the Greek basketball fan culture. Is the Greek fan support a step above what you can experience in the NCAA?
The fans in Greece were crazier than in the NCAA. You often had to deal with hostile fans, but I didn´t experience any bus shaking, but saw some chairs being thrown on the court against Aris.
You were a two time MAC tournament winner in 2010 and 2012. Which one was sweetest?
2012 because we went on to reach the NCAA Sweet 16. The 2010 win we weren´t supposed to go as far.
Was the 65-60 Ohio win against Michigan your biggest win in college? You won the duel against Trey Burke(16 points9 and Tim Hardaway(14 points) while you had 21 points and five assists.
It was one of my best games in terms of winning. But overall I rack it up with my best games.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas dubbed you as one of the best passers in the nation during Bilas’ Weekly Report segment on January 29, 2013.[ He said of Cooper, “[He] can score, he can dish, does a great job off the pick and roll and always seems to make the right decision. He can absolutely pass it, but more important than that, he can absolutely play. He’s among the best point guards in the country. But you weren´t drafted. How disappointed were you? Was it because of playing in the MAC and your height?
It was a mixture between playing at a mid-major and my height. I think that I needed that extra push from my agent that I didn´t get to get NBA try outs. Now I focus on playing at the highest level no matter if its in Russia, Euroleague or NBA. I just want to play at the highest level possible and make the best money while being comfortable.
You are the first player to record 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals in a career. What category of those stats was the most difficult for you to get?
The 300 steals was the toughest. I still needed like 30 steals in my senior year. It isn´t as easy to get steals as one may think.
Do you think that if you would have gone to Kentucky(NCAA) that you would have been the player you are today?
I don´t regret anything. Maybe it would have been different if I had gone to Kentucky, because with some good games you get on the NBA radar, but then again I might not have had the freedom I had at Ohio.
How did John Groce prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He was a great coach and a real offensive guru. He helped me on the pick and role and defense the most. He is a great person off the court.
Who was the toughest guy you had to defend in the NCAA that is in the NBA right now?
Trey Burke was the toughest cover. He is very versatile that can get to the rim and shoot.
Do you ever see Derick Rose being able to play some seasons healthy or will that injury prone label be stuck on him for the rest of his career?
I can´t say what will happen, but I wish him the best. Injuries are a part of the game. I think when he builds his confidence he can be one of the top point guards in the NBA again.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Law & Order season 16.
Thanks DJ for the chat.