The Future Folk Heroes Of College Basketball

Names like Juan Dixon, Jameer Nelson, Stephen Curry, and Jimmer Fredette instantly make you think of the college-basketball underdog. So who’ll be this year’s unlikely breakout star?

D.J. Cooper — Ohio University, 6’0” PG, Senior

D.J. Cooper is already something of a legend in Athens, OH.; the fiery point led the Bobcats to a Sweet Sixteen last year and spearheaded then 14-seed Ohio’s first-round tourney upset of Georgetown in 2010. He’s got the Ohio assist record, is one away from the steals record and boasts a super-pretty 14.6 points, 6.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.4 steals line for his career.

D.J. and his family also made plenty of noise with allegations that Tennessee and Baylor tried to swipe him (illegally) from Ohio before the ‘10-‘11 season, the point at which D.J. swore allegiance to coach Jim Groce and became a mid-conference media darling. Groce is off to Illinois, but if Cooper’s got another run in him under former Kent State coach Jim Christian, he’s definitely one of those guys who could ruin a spring weekend for fans of a top seed.

Could He Be a Star in the NBA?: Nah. Cooper is probably too small and too poor a shooter.

Folk Hero Potential: Like Stephen Curry going into his junior year, Cooper’s already there — see the attached documentary the Athens news station made about him — but one more tourney run could cement his status at Ohio’s GOAT.

Kyle Anderson — UCLA, 6’9” PG, Freshman

Anderson will definitely bring one of college basketball’s most unconventional, compelling, and actually-kind-of-confusing styles to a Bruins recruiting class that also includes five-star swingman Shabazz Muhammad and coveted center Tony Parker. Anderson dominated at St. Anthony’s, the Bob Hurley Sr.-led Jersey school that went 65-0 while he lead the team. He has a 7’2” wingspan, which is absurd for a Division I point guard, and passes very well — but is so slow that his Draft Express profile called him a “a noticeably below average athlete at the high school level.”

Could He Be a Star in the NBA?: He’ll certainly get a crack — every oversized point guard instantly makes NBA scouts fantasize about snagging the next Magic Johnson. Assuming he adds a little bulk and improves on defense the way that pretty much every D1 player does, he’s a lottery pick.

Folk Hero Potential: His game is so weird that he’ll be memorable even if he’s not very good, but if he’s able to score and play D on the college level he’ll be an appointment-viewing game-changer.

Nate Wolters — South Dakota State, 6’4” PG, Senior

“Naters Gonna Nate” via Matt Norlander, CBS Sports collegehoopsjournal.com

SDSU senior Nate Wolters is a prolific scorer and creative passer who plays in an obscure conference for a team named the JackRabbits, so I don’t know what else you really need me to say.

Could He Be a Star in the NBA?: He’s probably a second round pick at this point.

Folk Hero Potential: We’ve had Baby Jordans and Baby Shaqs — how about a Baby Nash?

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