Ohio junior guard D.J. Cooper says that Baylor and Tennessee both contacted him after his freshman season in order to persuade him to transfer, according to reports in The New York Times and CBSSports.com.
It is a violation of NCAA rules to recruit a player before he is released from his current program, yet that’s exactly what Cooper said happened after his freshman season, when he was named MAC Freshman of the Year and led Ohio to their first NCAA Tournament victory in 27 years.
“That [Tennessee and Baylor] was about it,” D.J. Cooper told Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com following Ohio’s 62-56 victory over South Florida Sunday in Nashville.
Donell Cooper, D.J.’s father, also told CBSSports.com that former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl “tried the hardest” to get his son to transfer.
“It was surprising, being my first experience, that schools were wanting me to come play for their programs,” D.J. Cooper said. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to stick with Ohio and Coach [John] Groce.
“I didn’t think about leaving. It’s about loyalty. I’m sticking with Coach Groce, he believed in me from the start. I didn’t listen to any of that [transfer talk]. I just focused on getting better as a sophomore.”
Dionne Cooper , D.J.’s mother, also told the New York Times that Baylor coach Scott Drew tried to get her son to transfer.
“He wasn’t necessarily calling and saying, ‘Come on over,’ ” she told the New York Times. “He would say: ‘Oh, this is great. I knew you could do it. The exposure you’re getting now, you’re not getting it in the MAC because you’re not on TV.’ He was really trying to sell to me. ‘We know you can do these things, but because of where you are, you’re not getting the attention you deserve.’ ”
Drew denied the story, telling the Times that after Cooper signed with Ohio “I never talked with the mom or the dad or D.J.”
Dionne Cooper said her son never considered leaving Ohio.
“He made a commitment to John Groce and he wasn’t going to break that commitment,” Dionne Cooper told CBSSports.com.