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Minnesota Basketball Player Preview: Amir Coffey

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The local sophomore star looks to build upon a highly successful freshman campaign

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament-Michigan State vs Minnesota Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Our preseason coverage of the Minnesota Golden Gopher men’s basketball team continues as we look at Amir Coffey, one of the times where the recruiting hype surrounding a player was justifiable. Many Gopher fans are hoping that the local product can be the one local recruit that started a pattern of successful recruiting border protection that also went hand-in-hand with on-court success.

MEASURABLES

Coffey is a sophomore who is listed at 6’ 8” and weighs in for the 2017-2018 season at 195 pounds. He has obviously been working on putting on more muscle to fill out his athletic frame. His athleticism and quality ball-handling and passing allow him to have the capability to play positions 1-4 on the floor in a pinch.

REVIEW OF 2016-2017

As previously alluded to, Amir was everything Gopher fans could have hoped for in his freshman season and possibly more. He played a huge roll in the massive 16-win turn around that occur between the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons. His ability to handle the ball, shoot with some proficiency, and get to the basket and draw fouls was essential to the improvement in offensive play the Gophers experienced. Furthermore, his incredible passing abilities for his size and his length on the defensive end were both huge contributors to Minnesota’s on-court success. He often stuffed the stat sheet in every category, including a fantastic act early in the season against the St. John’s Red Storm that included 9-14 from the field and 11-12 from the free throw line for 30 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals. In just the fourth game of the season, Coffey had announced himself as worthy of the hype.

He continued to play a huge part in the Gophers’ conference winning streak towards the end of the season and finished averaging 12.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.1 steals. His overall positive impact on Minnesota in all aspects of the game can be best encapsulated in the fact that he was tied for second on the team in box plus-minus (per College Basketball Reference), finishing only behind Reggie Lynch and tied with team captain Nate Mason.

OUTLOOK FOR 2017-2018

Coffey will look to build on the many positive things that he was able to accomplish last year. The size of the leap Amir can make between his freshman and sophomore season are dependent on two important statistics: usage percentage and three-point percentage.

Despite probably being the most talented offensive player on last year’s squad, Coffey was used on just 19.2% of possessions. While this ranked as fourth on the team, there were times where Coffey would disappear and the offensive began to run through other hands. Amir’s superior passing ability and his tendency to draw fouls (50% free throw rate) both indicate an increase in usage percentage would bode well for the Minnesota offense. If Coach Pitino can create some offensive sets with Coffey in mind as the primary option, Amir’s superior basketball IQ would shine in the half-court.

The other important statistic to watch for Coffey is his three-point percentage. Last year, he ranked fourth on the team percentage-wise with a 33.7% accuracy rate from downtown. If he can continue to improve his outside shot, which we know he is capable of doing via a good shooting form and a very solid 75.3% free throw percentage, his offensive arsenal will become nearly impossible to stop. His length and ball handling skills, in conjunction with a 42% clip from the outside would be a deadly combination for opposing teams.

CONCLUSION

He won’t sneak up on anyone this year, especially when he was announced as a preseason All-Big Ten player along with teammate Nate Mason, but Coffey is certainly talented enough for him to compensate for the lake of stealth with straight up talent. Coach Pitino knows the amount of talent he has in Coffey. If he can continue to increase Coffey’s usage without disrupting the flow of the rest of the team on offense and Amir can improve upon his three-point percentage while maintaining his attempt rate from distance, he will prove to be a near unstoppable force on the offensive side of the ball.

Without being too hyperbolic, if Coffey makes the leap on both sides of the ball that is within the realm of possibility for a player of his skill, size, and talent, he could turn the Gophers into Big Ten title contenders. The length he presents at the 3 and 2 spots on the court, the primary two positions he plays, makes for an excellent defensive presence in Pitino’s pressure system, as exemplified by the deflections and steals Coffey generated against top level competition as a mere freshman. Combine that with his ability to make the players around him better than he often exemplified last season and it’s safe to say that if Amir makes “the leap”, the Gophers very may well too.