There is little doubt where basketball players Sydney, Nia and Amir Coffey get their competitiveness.
It comes from their mother, Sheba Coffey. She also humbly credits herself for the athleticism of her kids, whom you may know from their Hopkins High playing days.
Ooooooh, just read her reaction (or better yet watch the video) to Gopher basketball phenom Rachel Banham’s dropping 60 points on Nia’s Northwestern team. Momma Coffey started to percolate as soon as I raised the subject.
A high school basketball player and track runner, Mom remains beside herself about those 60 points — and thrilled to pieces about what happened the next time Northwestern faced Minnesota.
Coffey’s fire was unlike any enthusiasm I’ve seen from Richard Coffey, her ex, the kids’ father and a former Gophers and Timberwolves player.
While pursuing a master’s degree in sports management Sheba Coffey has been racking up frequent flier miles to attend many of her daughters’ games, both at Northwestern and at Marist College, where Sydney’s studying fashion. If everything goes as planned, following the college career of her baby boy should be less time consuming. Amir plans to become a Gopher in the fall and make it a trifecta of Coffey kids playing Division I basketball on a scholarship.
Coffey, who works in marketing and events for the Timberwolves on game nights, also has “been consulting with parents, sharing my five-step programs for turning their child’s college basketball scholarship dream into reality.”
While I didn’t have time to play one-on-one with Coffey when this video was shot, she showcased her ball-handling skills in a parking lot, and there is more after the credit.
Q: Did you play basketball in college or were you a sprinter?
A: I retired in college. I played basketball and ran track in high school. That’s where the kids get all their athleticism.
Q: Did any of your kids sleep with a basketball?
A: All of my kids … actually, not slept with, but you would trip over it. They’re in the hallway, in the living room, in the bedroom, in the bathroom. It was total immersion. You couldn’t go anywhere without basketballs all over the place.
Q: In the fall your baby boy is expected to be your third child to play college basketball. There must be a secret to raising college basketball players, and you must know it.
A: I feel like there’s a process and it’s in their system. The biggest thing about raising kids to go play college basketball has nothing to do with basketball. I know that sounds ridiculous but it’s all about academics. If you’re not qualified, game over. There are so many steps that go along with that, but we’ve been able to do that successfully. And it begins with the right mind-set and committing to your vision. You have to be academically qualified and you have to put the work in on the court and in the gym. You have to stand [out] to recruiters so you have to position yourself to be recruited. You have to offer what I call “V Swag.” You have to have versatility in a number of other things, and that’s how you get a basketball scholarship.
Q: How is Amir versatile?
A: I don’t know if you call this “gifted in,” but he is really sarcastic. He’s really funny and a pretty good speaker. He can command a room and handle a microphone. And of course, any teenage boy, video games.
A: Nia is such an intellectual. I feel like she has a level of maturity that would surprise people. She is good at whatever she takes on.
A: Sydney is good at a lot of things. She never gives herself credit for any of them. Outside of basketball, she is the world’s counselor. She counsels everybody, boys, girls, all of their problems. She is like a fashionista; people call her from other states: Can I wear this, can I wear that? Sydney is like on FaceTime: Heck naw, throw that in the garbage. She will totally put together your outfit. She is awesome at a lot of things; fashion is one of them.
Q: As a parent, do you want your child associating with teammates who don’t know that sex is neither a group nor spectator sport?
A: Wow. That’s a big one. OK. No [laughing] is the short answer. And I would like to say, I feel my children make good decisions, despite the people that they might be around, and they can separate themselves from some decisions that are not so good. I think I better leave that one alone.
Q: I would be worried about what kind of person my kid would be after hanging with this crop of near-miscreants in the Gopher program, which is rather sorry these days.
A: I want my child to play wherever he thinks he can be happy and make an impact. I’d like to think he can rise above and beyond whatever circumstances are there right now. That is not a circumstance that my child fits within and so I would just like to turn it around in my mind and [think] there’s a great opportunity and he can do some great things.
Q: Are you having second thoughts about Amir living up to his verbal commitment, much as that would be convenient for your schedule?
A: Yeah, it will.
Q: You’ve gone to all Nia’s games?
A: I try.
Q: And all of Sydney’s games?
A: I try to make it to some. You know what? I don’t care if Amir was playing on Mars. I would make it there, too. I don’t care if I have to drive, fly, walk. We’re going to make it. So I try to make it to all the children’s games, I don’t care where it is. It’s just a blessing that they are playing.
Q: I hear you were fit to be tied when Rachel Banham …
A: Oh my God.
Q: … dropped 60 on your daughter Nia’s Northwestern team?
A: I’VE BEEN TRYING TO FORGET THAT AND YOU GUYS JUST WON’T LET ME FORGET! Oh my God. I was actually supposed to be at that [game] and THANK GOD I wasn’t. I was in Hawaii. I think I threw up in my mouth. Like oh my God, WHO IS PLAYING DEFENSE ON HER? GET IN HER JERSEY … WITH HER! Foul her! Do something! There is not a week that has gone by since then when somebody hasn’t reminded me: Hey, wasn’t that Banham [who] got 60 on Northwestern? I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m wearing shades.” That’s a bad thing. Good for Rachel Banham. But you know what? We got her back when it counted ’cause we ended their season and sent them home.
Q: If you could have the job of your choosing in sports, you would be …?
A: I would be the president of the NBA Dream Team.
Q: What’s that?
A: The NBA don’t know this yet but it needs me. They need my multimillion-dollar revenue generator, which will kill it! I don’t want to share my proposal in print before I present it to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Q: I have a nephew who was 12 or 14 before his wide body could beat me in basketball. Can Amir beat either of his sisters in a game of one-on-one?
A: Oh, you’re going to get me in trouble with this one. Today? Are we speaking today? It probably would not be a good idea for either of the girls to play Amir right now. They’re all pretty gifted. Nia even said that in an interview on TV in Chicago: Yeah, I pretty much won’t play him anymore. She knows, she knows.
Q: Do you think both girls could beat him?
A: We just had that conversation. Amir said, Mom, do you think I could beat both girls? Of course, I didn’t want to answer that question, and he was like, You always take their side. I said, “I didn’t say anything!” Then he was, I’ll take the both of them and beat both of them. I was like, “What? Where did that come from?”
Q: All that testosterone?
A: Which is really surprising because Amir normally isn’t that guy. But I’m like, “OK. He drank some testosterone juice yesterday.”
Q: Who inspires you?
A: Oh my goodness. Honestly, my parents and my children. I feel my parents are phenomenal role models. They show you how to live right and take care of yourself and your children. My children, oh my goodness, make me proud every day. I think they even surprise themselves and they don’t even realize the blessing they are to me.
Q: Does Mom know how to check everybody’s ego?
A: Sydney doesn’t have an ego; Nia doesn’t — and if they do they keep it super quiet but know better. Amir could if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. He has a quiet swagger and confidence. But, if they get a little twisted, I know how to fix it. Yeah.
Q: How many frequent flier miles do you have?
A: I never keep up with that. I honestly don’t know.
Q: What did going through your divorce teach you?
A: Um. That’s an interesting question. Life is definitely imperfect. It taught me not to have a lot of faith in someone. And your life can change in an instant. There [are] two sides to every story.
Q: If your name is Sheba, I assume your parents named your sisters Cleopatra, Bilqis and Makeda?
A: [Laughter] Oh my goodness. No. There’s only room for one queen. I’m all you get.
Q: I wonder if you can throw a football farther than I can?
A: I’m pretty good at sports.
Q: We’re going to take it outside and see.
A: Evidently that’s everybody’s best kept secret, but I’m really good at sports.
Interviews are edited. To contact C.J., try firstname.lastname@example.org and to see her watch Fox 9’s “Jason Show.”