D.J. Cooper’s Balancing Act

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D.J. Cooper has been assisting teammates his entire basketball career.

On the court, he is nationally recognized for his passing. He’s a four-year starting point guard for the Ohio men’s basketball team that has gone to the NCAA Tournament twice. ESPN’s Jay Bilas ranked him as the best passer in the nation. He’s moving up the NCAA Division I leaderboard, as he approaches 900 career assists.

Cooper’s known by his family members, friends and teammates as an unselfish person. His ability to help everyone on and off the court is admired.

That’s why when Cooper became a parent with his girlfriend, Lucky, in December, the closest people surrounding Cooper throughout his life knew he’d sacrifice for his new child.

“He never really had patience. Sacrifice. I’m pleased with the sacrifice and he’s never been a selfish kid. Of course that shows on the court all the time and even off the court,” D.J.’s mother Dionne Cooper said. “This is just a bigger part of him, being the big giver that he is.”

Yet, a more mature D.J. Cooper has emerged on and off the court. His patience that his mother claims he has never had has improved tremendously when he runs the Ohio offense. When he sees that the Bobcats don’t have an advantage in transition, he doesn’t force anything, slows it down and runs a play.

When Cooper found out that his girlfriend was pregnant, it came as a shock to D.J.’s parents.

“If we could have planned it, if we had a crystal ball, of course we want things to go in the proper order, chronologically,” Dionne said. “Financially set. After your education, then you do the wife, then you do the house, the dog and the kid.

“But then that’s the perfect world. So initially, I think I had the emotions that any parent would have. But then after reality sets in that we do have the situation that we have to deal with, we set down collectively as a family and got a plan. Got a clear understanding with all parties involved. D.J., Lucky and Lucky’s parents, we all collectively sat down and got a plan.”

They planned for the birth of Donell Cooper III. He, like his father, isn’t known by his first name by his family. Dionne calls him Tré, while D.J. refers to him as “Little D.J.”

The transition to parenthood hasn’t been as simple for D.J. as the transition game in the Convocation Center. He’s making an adjustment, though.

“It's kind of a dedication and a sacrifice thing all at once, you know,” D.J. said. “You can't do as many things as you want to do because you have a son, your child to nurture and stuff like that. But it's going to pay off in the long run and you just gotta realize that you're living for somebody else now.”

Dionne recalled several moments throughout the first two months where a frustrated D.J. called his mother about the difficulties of being a parent.

“There has been a couple of nights that I have gotten phone calls like, ‘Oh my goodness, I went to bed at 4:30, then I had to get up at six. Then I tried to take a nap,’” Dionne said. “You know, initially I said to him, ‘That is definitely the spike of parenthood.’ What I do like about it is that he has embraced it.

“His time management has always been critical to his survival, his wellbeing.”

But the joys of being a father hits D.J.

“It's a great feeling. I love him to death. You know, it's a great feeling to have. I have a son that I come home to everyday,” D.J. said. “It's a huge sacrifice. You can't live the college life, as you would say, as much as you would probably want to or as you imagined. You know, everything else is pretty good.”

Tré has seen his father play a couple games at the Convocation Center, where the two-month old baby joined his father on the court after the game. The thought of his son playing basketball someday has already crossed his mind, maybe following in the footsteps of his father by playing for the Ohio Bobcats.

“He's still young right now. He's two months old, so you can't see much,” D.J. said on his son’s development. “But I've been seeing he's getting bigger day by day, and he's holding his neck up and stuff like that.”

“I've been making sure that everything's in his left hand, so he'll be left-handed,” D.J. said with a smile.

D.J.’s son has the basketball genes. He has his father already helping him out at a young age. And with a nickname like Trè, he’s destined to be raining threes from deep in the Convo, just as his father has done all four years in college.

Even if he decides to go in a different direction from his father, Tré will have the support of his father.

D.J. will continue to assist his son to be the very best at whatever he pursues.