Today we focus on the small forwards, also known as the wings.
Who played minutes?
There were three players who played small forward this year: Amir Coffey, Michael Hurt, and Ahmad Gilbert. As noted yesterday, Gilbert has elected to transfer in part because he was not receiving minutes. Consequently, this profile will only look at Coffey and Hurt.
Coffey and Hurt were two of Pitino’s three freshmen recruits in last year’s class. While Coffey was always expected to be a key piece from day 1, the same expectations should not have been put on Hurt. Indeed, if Davonte Fitzgerald had not torn his ACL before the season there is a a reasonable chance that Hurt would have been a redshirt candidate.
I bring this up for two reasons. First, I have noticed that it’s become weirdly trendy to claim that certain players are not division 1 material. This is strange to me because apart from it being objectively false, it also seems to jump the gun when it comes to evaluation. Second, it’s a criticism that’s been leveled a lot at Hurt.
Small Forwards Per 100 Possessions
Small Forward Statistical Profile
Amir Coffey was an obvious choice for All Conference Freshmen. He began the season with a breakout performance against St. John’s and followed that by playing consistently well throughout the season. Coffey’s assist rate is fantastic and near point guard quality, which is great for a small forward. The main concern from the statistics is his three point game.
Michael Hurt played in 25 games, but did not play often. He played a little over a 1/10th of the minutes that Coffey played, and was very much a spell player. Coming in to the season, the recruiting story was that Hurt was a great shooter. We did not see much of that this year. With that said, we saw so little of Hurt that it is difficult to make any definitive judgements about his play.
Amir Coffey is an excellent passer and a deadly finisher when able to drive with his left hand. Coffey is such a good passer that he could break zone defenses by himself. He possesses elite athleticism and a natural leadership quality. During his freshman season, he had several moments that made people leave their seats. The most notable of these was a ferocious dunk through traffic against Ohio State. He also showed an ability to get in the way of passing lanes for steals and fast break opportunities.
Michael Hurt showed no real strengths in his freshman campaign. He was clearly a bench player, and his minutes reflect that assessment.
Coffey has not developed a capable right hand, which makes him easier to guard. In addition, while he improved late in the season, his three point shot still leaves something to be desired. If he can improve those two aspects of his game while adding some strength (the latter is a given), I find it highly unlikely that he will play college basketball for four years.
I also had concerns at times with his passivity on offense. Coffey was used to initiating offense in high school, and there seemed to be growing pains with his move to small forward in college. Next year, I hope that Pitino will run more offense through Coffey, particularly in the post where he has a height advantage over most of his defenders.
Hurt has to get stronger and faster in the offseason in order to be productive at the college level. Unlike Coffey, there is no worry that Hurt will leave school early. Right now, he’s a step too slow for college, which makes sense since Hurt was not expected to see the court right away.
Projection for next season
Coffey will start at small forward for as long as he plays college basketball. He should improve from his freshman campaign and it is reasonable to expect that he will land on one of the All Big Ten teams. Coffey has a high ceiling, and his work ethic suggests it is possible to see him hit it.
Next season, Davonte Fitzgerald is scheduled to return to the basketball team. I say scheduled because Fitzgerald has had two ACL injuries while in college, which are difficult to return from. Assuming that he is capable of playing, he will likely be the primary backup for Coffey.
Hurt should expect to see some rotation minutes, and much more if Fitzgerald is unable to play significant minutes next season.
The Gophers have an available scholarship with the transfer of Ahmad Gilbert, but it is unlikely that they will use it on a small forward in the spring period.