Rayno: More on recruit Amir Coffey. A lifetime leading up to this

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  • June 25, 2014 - 11:03 AM

In today's Star Tribune: Gophers' drought in the NBA draft expected to reach a decade tomorrow.

Read part one of Amir Coffey's story here.

Growing up, Saturdays brought no reprieve for Amir Coffey.

Just like every other day, he and his two sisters, Sydney and Nia, would be rustled from sleep at the crack of dawn by their father, Richard Coffey -- a basketball under his arm and a mission in his mind.

Off to the gym they would go, the foursome enacting what surely would have looked like a mini basketball camp from the outside. The three kids would dribble -- for an hour or more, the father instructing them to practice crossing over, changing speeds, in-and-outs. Over and over. They would shoot, from all over the court.

The workouts -- which Richard deemed training -- didn't go without some protest. During the year, the Coffeys would train before school and after basketball practice, sometimes for as long as two and a half hours. The three kids would turn down movies and outings with their friends because of the schedule enacted by their father.

"In the beginning, they really didn't understand it," said Coffey, who played baskeball at the University of Minnesota from 1986 to 1990 before a brief stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves. "We stuck with it ... they sacrificed a lot. But they did it."

It's no coincidence where all three are now, Coffey staunchy believes. Both girls are thriving at Division I schools -- Sydney is at Marist, Nia, at Northwestern. Rivals currently ranks Amir at No. 34 in the 2016 national class, and the 6-7 guard Hopkins guard has already compiled seven scholarships heading into his junior season.

The elder Coffey saw the potential early. All he did, he says, was tap it.

All three of his children began walking before the age of 1, with Amir first taking to his feet at a green eight months. Coffey began training him -- having him dribble in the backyard, in the basement -- by he time he was a year old.

"I knew they were athletic," Coffey said. "And the one thing I had in me that I knew I could give to them was basketball ... I grew up in an era where, my parents didn't really know a lot about basketball so I didn't really train a lot in basketball. I just played pickup, but no one pulled me aside and said hey, work on your dribble or work on your shot."

As such, he wanted to make sure Amir didn't grow up to realize the same scenario he did: standing at 6-foot-6 and aspiring to play in the NBA, he didn't have the necessary ball-handling skills for a long career. Coffey directed his son to a different future. When in the first grade, Amir was trying out for a third-grade team, the youth coach positioned the Hopkins native at power forward.

"I said 'No,'" Coffey said. "And then at that point, I decided to start my own basketball program so he could play the [point guard]. And that's what I did."

Amir played for Minneapolis Select, his father's team, for six years, all the while honing the passing and dribbling skills that have excited collegiate programs ranging from North Carolina to Kansas to Wisconsin -- which was the latest program to offer, earlier this week.

For Amir, the training hasn't stopped, but it has changed as he's sprouted six inches in the last two seasons to his current 6-foot-7 height, his shoulder now exceeding that of his father's.

Wanting his son to keep his quickness and lateral movement and avoid becoming bulky, as he did, Coffey held off starting Amir's weight training until about three months ago. He now trains with an Eden Prarie professional named Tony Wilson. Amir is also consuming about five meals a day -- plus milkshakes made from ice cream and protein mix at night -- in an attempt to keep up with his workouts and add muscle. "I'm trying to get as many calories in him as I possibly can," Coffey said. Right now, Amir weighs about 180 pounds -- his dad hopes he'll add 8-10 pounds before November.

"You have to become single-minded focused right now if you're going to get to that top level," Coffey said. "Now we have to start doing the things that take [Amir] from good to great."

Now, he's still a kid. Coffey chuckled while remarking that Amir would rather be playing Nintendo with his friends than worry about the schools that are recruiting him. "I love that about him," the father said.

Still, he knows the prime of his son's recruitment is just around the corner. He hopes he's prepared him. He remembers, fondly, when Nia stood at the podium at her high school banquet and told the crowd "I didn't understand why dad would make us get up and go to the gym so much. But now, I understand."

"That was pretty cool," Coffey said. "I think they're in a position now where they can reap some of those rewards ... To know that all the work [Amir has] done over the years is paying off is really a cool thing."

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