Richard Coffey learned a lot about his son Amir one Saturday a decade ago.
Coffey was coaching a youth basketball team led by Amir, a third-grade dynamo playing with fifth-graders. They trailed by a point late in the game when Amir came up with a steal at midcourt.
“I was yelling ‘Take it, take it, score, score,’ ” the elder Coffey said. “But he passed to a guy in front of him who had less of a chance of making a layup than Amir. We lost by one. In the car, on the way home, I was telling him he had to be the one to take that shot and score. He looked at me and said ‘But [he] was open. If he’s open, I’ve got to pass the ball, right?’ I started think and said, ‘Yeah. You’ve got to pass the ball.’ ”
Ten years later, it’s that unselfishness and all-around play that has resulted in Amir Coffey being selected as the 2016 Star Tribune boys’ basketball Metro Player of the Year. After missing the 2014-15 season because of a knee injury, the Hopkins senior is the big reason the Royals enter this week’s state tournament as the No. 2-seed in Class 4A. He’s a 6-foot-7 jack-of-all-trades, skilled in so many areas that he’s become impossible for opponents to defend.
He’s long-limbed enough to create havoc in passing lanes. An adept ball-handler who can break a press on his own. A scorer with an endless well of creativity. But where Coffey really excels is at making his teammates better. If basketball IQ were measurable, Coffey would be a Mensa member.
“He’s a great passer. That’s his best attribute,” Hopkins coach Ken Novak said. “He’s very unselfish and [he’s] not trying to be the guy everyone is looking at. Consequently, kids love to play with him.”
Coffey has committed to play for the University of Minnesota and brings the size and versatility the Gophers desperately need. There have been reports of dissatisfaction with the direction of the program, but currently his commitment remains solid.
Coffey takes all of the accolades in stride. He knows that expectations are high, but there is one goal he’s bent on reaching, one he thought he would have reached by now. Despite Hopkins’ standing as one of Minnesota’s elite high school basketball programs, the Royals have not won a state championship during Coffey’s four years on the team.
He’s had state tournament success; his three-quarter court buzzer-beater that gave Hopkins a 49-46, four-overtime victory over Shakopee in the 2014 semifinals has reached iconic status in state tournament history.
“I tried 10 times to do it over again in the gym and I never even got close,” he said with a laugh. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime shot.”
Ending his career as a state champion is his sole focus right now. Even a nagging turf toe injury he’s battled since late January hasn’t slowed him down. He missed four games due to the injury, but he knows this is his last shot at a title.
“It feels like just yesterday I was playing in my first varsity game,” Coffey said. “Now we’re down to the last few games. All these years of playing varsity basketball, the state championship has been the goal, especially with this being my last year. It’s very important for me to get that.”