This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

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A look at 2016 recruit Amir Coffey, part one: the next phase

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: June 23, 2014 - 11:05 AM

As Richard Coffey and his son, Amir, started the drive from Missouri, the calls started to roll in.

Eight and a half hours later, as the Coffeys were pulling into their Minneapolis home, Richard had barely pulled the phone away from his ear.

As expected, the next phase of the recruitment of Amir -- a four-star 2016 guard living practically in the Gophers' backyard -- had started off with a bang.

June 15th, a Sunday, was the first day college coaches could call players from that class. And many of the nation's elite's were already setting their sights on the burgeoning Minneapolis prep star, who was returning from the Nike Elite 100 camp in St. Louis.                                           

"We probably heard from 25 to 30 coaches on Sunday," said Richard, who is no stranger to the fuss, having played at the University of Minnesota from 1986 to 1990 before a brief stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Coaches from Kansas, North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa State, Purdue and Miami were among the callers, as well as, of course, Minnesota's Richard Pitino, who has made a clear early effort in showing interest. 

The allure is obvious. The younger Coffey -- having gotten the exposure of playing with elite former recruits Tyus Jones (Duke) and Reid Travis (Stanford) as well as 2015 guard Jarvis Johnson on Howard Pulley AAU -- has steadily impressed with his excellent passing ability, court vision and poise while also becoming a better scorer.

Since the start of his freshman year two seasons ago, Amir has sprouted six inches, from 6-1 to 6-7 while still possessing the ball-handling skills of a true guard.

Already, the rising junior at Hopkins High School has offers from Creighton, Indiana, Miami, Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa State.

"He's really in a good place right now," the elder Coffey said. "There are several schools that are extremely interested. I think by the end of July, once he finishes out the AAU season, I think a lot of people are going to offer him. So he should get a lot more scholarships."

Who ultimately gets the official visits and he consideration, depends a lot on what is said to the dad, who is most handling the Amir's recruitment at this point.

"Amir has a unique skill set. He is officially 6-7 and he's really a combo guard," said Richard Coffey, who at 6-6 played small forward and occasionally center at Minnesota. "The decision to where Amir goes to college is going to be drastically different than what the decision was for where I went to school. For Amir it's going to be what schools are looking to play a big guard. I want Amir to play some point, I think Amir can play some point."

To prove to schools he's serious, and to attempt to filter out the coaches who simply tell him what he wants to hear, the elder Coffey is requesting game tape from as many contests from each school. He wants to see whether the program consistently plays big guards at the point guard and shooting guard positions -- he believes that if they don't, they won't change for Amir. He wants to see the coach's style -- he believes his son would best flourish in a freer, faster-paced offense. He wants to see how much a team moves the ball -- he believes his son's passing ability should be fully utilized. 

Those criteria are non-negotiable.

"If schools are considering him as a three, they're probably not going to make it too far in the process with us," Coffey said. "Because he's not a 3. The best part of Amir's game, to me, is something that can't really be taught: his ability to see the court."

Minnesota, of course, played an extremely small lineup in Pitino's first year with the Gophers. DeAndre Mathieu, listed at 5-foot-9, was the starting floor general and is expected to root the same role next year. Andre Hollins, at 6-foot-2, is the starting shooting guard. There isn't much backcourt size behind those two on the roster, either. Incoming freshman Nate Mason stands at 6-foot-1. Daquein McNeil is the giant of the group at 6-foot-3. Last year, Malik Ahanmisi and Malik Smith both played the 2 spot at 6-foot-2. Next year's incoming JUCO guard Carlos Morris boasts a height of 6-foot-4, but three inches shorter than Amir -- who may still be growing -- he's expected to take over former Gopher Austin Hollins' spot at small forward.

Still, Coffey says those facts don't eliminate Minnesota, at least not yet. He knows Pitino is new to the program and didn't have many options last year. His recruiting process for the early signing period last year -- next year's incoming players -- was limited to about seven months.

Father and son have a strong relationship with assistant Ben Johnson, who is a DeLaSalle alumnus, and they talk with him constantly, Coffey said.

"What [Pitino] said, it kind of makes sense," Coffey said. "They realize they have to get bigger to play in the Big Ten. They agree with what I'm what I'm saying. 

"Amir still has two seasons left to see how things change and what happens over there. We're going to make sure we take our time with Amir from a decision-making process and make sure he goes to the right program that fits his skill set."

Right now, the pair isn't in any hurry to rush that process, even if coaches around the country are depleting Richard Coffey's cell phone battery in an attempt to better their chances.

Coffey said they don't plan to take any unofficial visits this summer due to his son's schedule. Beyond AAU commitments, Amir will be attending trials for the USA Basketball under-17 national team in July. By the time August rolls around, Coffey said, he wants his son to be able to just enjoy being a kid. It's the last summer he'll really be able to do so, he knows.

"And I've got a lot of game film to look at, actually," Coffey said. "It's going to be a slow process. But it'll be fun though."

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