When Chase Coley was in eighth grade, her father, Tylor, was hired to coach girls’ basketball at Minneapolis Washburn. He begged his wife, Kelli Jo, to let Chase open enroll into the Washburn district from their home in Eagan.
The reasons were plentiful: The Coleys had lived in south Minneapolis and still had extensive ties there. Tylor, a self-proclaimed basketball fanatic who played at Grace University in Indiana, always wanted the chance to coach his children. And with Chase already pushing 6 feet, he saw the potential to turn Washburn around.
“Kelli said ‘Nooooo. She’s going to finish here and we’ll talk about high school after that,’ ” Tylor said. “She didn’t want her to make that change in middle school.”
Chase enrolled at Washburn a year later. “I remember sitting down at the table and doing a pros and cons list,” she said. “There were more pros.”
In the four years hence, she’s proven her father to be spot-on in his assessment of his daughter. She has sprouted to a legitimate 6-3, with arms longer than most teammates’ legs while possessing a sprinter’s speed and a point guard’s agility.
What Chase has done with those attributes — lead the Minneapolis Conference scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, assists and steals, and spark the Millers to back-to-back state tournament appearances — is why she was selected the Star Tribune 2014 Metro Player of the Year.
The journey to this point has been far from smooth. In 2010, Kelli Jo, a former University of Minnesota basketball player, died unexpectedly at the age of 46. Tylor moved his girls, Chase and Kendall, now a fifth-grader, to more familiar surroundings in Minneapolis.
After dividing her time equally between volleyball and basketball with her mother, Chase followed her father’s lead and focused her energies on basketball.
“Working with my dad outside of practice was tough, but it was where I got a lot better at basketball,” Chase said. “And the better I got, the more people started hearing about me.”
Still, without her mother’s steady hand, her confidence wavered. It’s one thing to play well in the Minneapolis Conference with its uneven talent level. It’s another to succeed among the state’s best players. That problem was solved last summer when she played with the North/Tartan AAU team, which also included Cayla McMorris of Park Center and Tia Elbert of Tartan.
“I was kind of nervous playing with them,” Chase said. “They had been together for a long time.”
Coley earned respect, both in the locker room and among the college coaches that continuously showed up to watch, with her abilities at both ends of the floor. By summer’s end, she was entertaining offers from multiple Division I schools.
She chose Iowa, which wowed her. “I knew that’s where I wanted to go right away,” she said.
Her future secure and her confidence at an all-time high, Coley nearly averaged a triple-double this season: 24.4 points, 18.4 rebounds and 9.4 blocked shots. She became the state’s career blocked shots leader, currently 856 heading into this week’s Class 3A tournament.
“This year has been so much fun,” she said. “Playing with my AAU team, playing with my high school team, [signing with] Iowa, it’s been a great year.”