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Hopkins guard Kerwin Walton sees interest soar after big AAU weekend

Hopkins guard Kerwin Walton wants to be known for being more than just a shooter, but his deadly stroke was all coaches were talking about after his 10 three-pointers in a game during the start of the July evaluation period last week.

The 6-foot-5 Hopkins senior scored 30 points on 10-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc in D1 Minnesota's victory over Team Loaded (N.C.) at the Adidas Summer Championships in Birmingham, Ala. 

Walton, who is one of six Class of 2020 standouts with scholarship offers from the Gophers, combined to hit 15 threes in two games Saturday alone. D1 Minnesota was without five-star Prior Lake senior forward Dawson Garcia, who was out with an illness.

So Walton led the way with 14.9 points per game on 25-for-54 shooting from long range in seven games Thursday through Sunday in Alabama. 

Previously, Walton was hearing mostly from Denver, South Dakota, Creighton and Minnesota. After the last Adidas circuit, he picked up new scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Iowa, Iowa State, Miami and Virginia Tech. The biggest offer yet came from Arizona on Monday night.

Don't expect Walton's offers from high majors to slow down anytime soon after last weekend's shooting display. That's more competition for the Gophers to keep him home. Last week, Walton talked to the Star Tribune about Minnesota and recruiting, how he improved this summer and more.

Q: Do you have any schools in mind for official visits?

A: It’s really tough to schedule visits right now. I think I’m in a good spot, but I just want to have all the options and possible opportunities I can get. I have a few schools who are still looking at me and want to see me play one last time before they consider me with their offers. I just want to play (in July), and hopefully teams like what they see and start recruiting me harder.

Q: How did it feel to be offered by the Gophers last fall? Where do you stand with them?

A: It felt great to get an offer from them. They’re another big-time school. I know a lot of the guys who went there (sophomores Daniel Oturu and Gabe Kalscheur). I’m pretty cool with them. I have a pretty good relationship with the coaching staff. They seem to really like me. I can see myself there, honestly. I believe I would fit in there. I feel like I could come in there and be used properly being able to play with Gabe, Daniel and other guys. I feel like Gabe and I would be good backcourt.

Q: Was it encouraging to see the Gophers reach the NCAA tournament last season? 

A: It does encourage me a little bit about the program. Because if they can be successful I feel like the coaching staff could make that happen for me. I feel like I could reach that same level by developing myself or go even farther.

Q: Have you thought about when you would like to make a decision? 

A: Not too much really. I’m just trying to look for the best fit for me. Where could I go in and possibly play right away, develop and be the best player I can be.

Q: How would you describe your development from last summer?

A: I think I improved a lot last year on the defensive end. People started to see it more and acknowledge it more. Knocking down shots on the other end and scoring anyway possible . Playing with guys like Zeke and Dawson helps to get me better and prepare me for the next level.

Q: How tough will it be this season at Hopkins playing without Zeke Nnaji (Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year), who is now at Arizona? 

A: I thought we were the perfect 1-2 punch. I thought he was the best post player in Minnesota. Unless there was a double team coming he was going to score, especially when we were coming off the pick and roll. I could get it out to him for a shot or when Zeke was double teamed he could kick it out to me for a shot. He set good screens so I could come off looking to score. For us it was like a pick your poison type deal. I don’t feel too much pressure (without him), but I’m definitely going to have to carry a heavier load this year. There are a bunch of new guys who are inexperienced but still have talent. I don’t really feel pressure about it, but I feel more confident about myself and teammates.

Q: How much have you grown physically in the last year? 

A: I think I’ve gotten bigger physically, but I’m not where I should be to play at the highest level. I’m always trying to see where my ceiling is. I’m trying to be the best version of myself. I’m doing a lot of lifting and different things. I just want to see how much I can grow.

Q: Do you think you proved this summer you're more than just a shooter?

A: I feel like I shoot at such a high level most people would just label me as a shooter, but I can do pretty much a lot of different things. I can handle the ball, I think I can pass and defend. Defending is one of my biggest passions next to shooting. If I can play on both ends of the floor, offense and defense, being able to guard somebody and stay in front of them and be able to knock down shots I think I can play at a high level wherever I play.

Ex-Gophers guard Coffey signs two-way contract with Clippers

Amir Coffey got one step closer to making his dream of playing in the NBA come true.

The former Gophers guard officially signed a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, the team's President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank announced Tuesday night. 

Coffey went undrafted in June after leaving the Gophers a year early, but the 6-foot-8 guard found an organization that really believed in his talent to play at the next level. 

"Just because you go undrafted doesn't mean it won't work out," Coffey told the Star Tribune before going to Vegas. "I know a big story in the past year was (former Wichita State and current Toronto Raptors guard) Fred VanVleet. He was a guy who went undrafted and look at him now. It's a different journey for everybody."

Under a two-way contract, a concept the NBA introduced in 2017, a player typically spends most of the season in the developmental G League but can spend a maximum of 45 days on the active roster of his NBA team.

In his Clippers debut Saturday, Coffey turned heads with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal in a win against the Los Angeles Lakers. In a second start Sunday, Coffey had 10 points, three rebounds and an assist in 27 minutes against the Memphis Grizzlies. 

Clippers summer league coach Brian Adams talked this week about Coffey’s potential to be an NBA player. 

“When you first see him, he’s really long and he’s got a way about handling," said Adams, who also is the head coach of the Agua Caliente/Clippers G League team. "He sees himself kind of as a point guard as well. He told me his favorite player is Shaun Livingston. And you can kind of see that a little. You know just the way he gets downhill, but he goes at such a pace ... You know his shot’s going to develop. He’s a relentless worker. Another thing him and (second-round pick) Terance (Mann) are even spirits. Nothing fazes them. I think right now he’s an NBA player on a stop just pushing it up. I mean I think he showed (Saturday) that he’s really capable. It’s definitely something that will be fun to watch going forward.”

Last season as a junior, Coffey led the Gophers with 16.6 points and 3.2 assists in 35.2 minutes to earn All-Big Ten third team honors for a 22-win NCAA tournament team. Coffey said deciding to forgo his senior season was an "easy" decision, but the hard part was preparing for the next step.

Following the Gophers season, Coffey declared for the draft and hired agent Javon Phillips with Excel Sports Managament. He trained in Westchester, N.Y., traveled to 11 different cities for NBA workouts and returned to Minneapolis to finish the spring semester. 

 "It was pretty tough, because it was a packed schedule," Coffey said. "But obviously I wanted to finish out the school year and pass all of my classes. When I do end up going back to school, I wanted to be on a good track. Juggling the schedules was about building time for me to get out to the different cities but keep my academics (a priority). It felt like another season right after I just finished. It was super busy, but I got through it."  

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