When Amir Coffey takes the floor Saturday donning his Los Angeles Clippers No. 42 jersey at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, it’ll finally sink in that his pro basketball journey is beginning.
“It’ll be cool,” said Coffey, who led the Gophers in scoring and assists last season as a junior. “It’ll be a fun experience out there playing and competing with the other guys.”
Even after going undrafted last month, Coffey has a chance to pursue his NBA dreams. In a telephone interview Wednesday, he said he has no regrets about forgoing his senior season.
It wasn’t a hard decision, he said, even though he would have been the face of the Gophers program next season.
“I felt like it was an easy one,” Coffey said from Los Angeles. “After all the work I put in, and how much better I got after the season going through all those workouts, I felt confident in what I was doing.
“I felt confident in my game, and I was getting good feedback from a lot of teams. I talked to my [family] and agent and felt it was a good time to stay in.”
Coffey had a chance to become the first U player drafted since fellow Hopkins product Kris Humphries in 2004. Still, Coffey wasn’t devastated not to hear his name called on draft night.
A few teams expressed interest in a potential two-way contract next season. Coffey signed an Exhibit 10 deal that guarantees him an invite to Clippers training camp in October.
His contract can be switched to a two-way deal before the regular season or he can receive a $50,000 bonus by staying with the team’s G League affiliate (Agua Caliente) for 60 days beyond when he’s waived from the Clippers’ camp.
“Obviously everybody wants to be drafted,” Coffey said. “That’s not how it worked out for me, but I still landed in a good position. There’s a whole bunch of different ways you can get to the league. Just because you go undrafted doesn’t mean it won’t work out.”
Fellow Gopher Jordan Murphy signed a contract to play for the Timberwolves in the summer league in Vegas.
Murphy makes his debut at 4 p.m. Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers on NBA TV. Coffey plays his first game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, against the Los Angeles Lakers on ESPNU.
Coffey’s confidence soared after he averaged 23.5 points. 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his final eight games for the Gophers on a 22-win NCAA tournament team. The Clippers were intrigued by his versatility in draft workouts.
“They’ll play me a little bit [at positions] 1-3, just like in college,” he said. “I’m on the ball and off the ball just as much and get to make plays for myself and my teammates. I’ll also get opportunities to come off down screens.”
The next step for Coffey is showing the Clippers that they’re the right fit for him to continue to blossom in his basketball career, beyond the Gophers.
“Physically, I’ve gotten stronger,” he said. “I just feel better with my body where I’m at. On the court, I’ve been improving my dribbling and jump shooting.
“But there’s also a whole bunch of different reads in the offense and spots on the court to get your spacing. I’ve just been soaking all that up.”