Four-star basketball recruit picks Gophers
MINNEAPOLIS - Like his father before him, Amir Coffey is a Gopher. The four-star guard and state's top senior made his commitment to the University of Minnesota official Monday afternoon at a news conference at Hopkins High School. "I just want t...
MINNEAPOLIS – Like his father before him, Amir Coffey is a Gopher.
The four-star guard and state’s top senior made his commitment to the University of Minnesota official Monday afternoon at a news conference at Hopkins High School.
“I just want to represent my hometown,” Coffey said. “And the chemistry I have with a lot of the players off the court - I’m friends with them already. They’re good people. It felt like home. It felt right for me.”
Coffey’s father, Richard, was a starting forward for the Gophers under Clem Haskins from 1986-90, playing on teams that went to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “By no means is he a savior of anything, but I think he can be an important piece to their success moving forward in 2016.”
Coffey’s commitment could be a turning point for Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino as he works to keep many of the state’s top players from leaving Minnesota.
Coffey, who had scholarship offers from Big Ten schools such as Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin, is ranked as the 33rd best player in the 2016 class by ESPN.com.
The 6-foot-7 senior is the highest-ranked player to commit to Minnesota since former Hopkins star Royce White in 2009.
Pitino replaced Tubby Smith in April 2013, and he was too late to lock down local stars Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis, all McDonald’s All-Americans in 2014.
Last year, though, the Gophers got a commitment from DeLaSalle’s Jarvis Johnson, who was the first high school player from Minnesota to sign with Pitino.
“The image is getting way better and more appealing to guys back home,” Coffey said.
Pitino and Minnesota assistant Ben Johnson, who played for the Gophers and DeLaSalle, have followed Coffey closely since he was in 10th grade.
“Ever since then, they would come in and see my every week,” Coffey said. “They would call me and text me like every other day. The first time they came in, I didn’t know them too well. But a growing relationship started to happen.”
An important step in the process was making sure Coffey knew he would be playing guard. Some programs wanted him to play forward because of his height. They didn’t have a chance at landing him.
Unlike his father, who was a physical rebounding presence at 6-6 and 215 pounds, Coffey could be still growing but is just 190 pounds right now.
His strength is his all-around game - passing, shooting, ball handling and getting to the rim.
“It was a tough process because I never wanted to push Minnesota towards him almost to a fault,” Richard Coffey said. “Deep inside, I wouldn’t let myself get excited about the possibility because I didn’t want to get let down. After his visit, he came home and said, ‘I think I want to go to Minnesota.’ I started to get real excited.”