Amir Coffey has decided to keep himself in the NBA draft pool and forgo his senior season, delivering a big hit to Minnesota’s roster for next season.
The deadline to withdraw from the draft was Wednesday night. Coffey’s agent Javon Phillips told the Star Tribune on Wednesday evening, five hours before the deadline, that Coffey will stay in the pool.
After leading the Gophers to the NCAA tournament second round in March and earning All-Big Ten honors, Coffey now has his sights set on pursuing his dream of playing in the NBA. He’s projected to go anywhere from the 45th pick (second round) to unselected in the June 20 draft.
Following a spring of testing the waters with NBA team workouts, the 6-8 former Hopkins standout received enough positive feedback to bypass his senior year.
The Gophers would likely have been a preseason Top 25 team with Coffey. They still return sophomores-to-be Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu, who started on a 22-win squad that beat Louisville in the NCAA tournament first round.
“The timing felt right after our successful season,” Coffey wrote on social media after the Star Tribune reported April 3 that he would declare early for the draft and sign with an agent.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino said last week he only wanted “what’s best for Amir” with Wednesday’s decision.
“If he has an opportunity to change his life, we’ve got to support that,” Pitino said. “That’s what he’s dreamed of his whole life, much like our other players. So, if [Wednesday], he does stay in, we’re going to support him, we’re going to root for him, we’re going to hope he wears an NBA jersey.”
Pitino tweeted his congratulations to Coffey on Thursday morning:
Coffey wasn’t invited to the NBA combine after participating in the NBA G League Elite Camp earlier this month in Chicago. But he worked out for nearly a dozen NBA teams, including San Antonio, Houston, Golden State and Boston. He worked out in California with the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday afternoon, just hours before his decision was confirmed.
In his junior season, Coffey averaged 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. In his last eight games, Coffey played the best basketball of his career, averaging 23.5 points. His back-to-back 30-point games vs. Purdue and Northwestern put the Gophers in position for their second NCAA tournament bid in three years. Coffey finished the season with 27 points in the Gophers’ NCAA tournament second-round loss to Michigan State in Des Moines.
Coffey displayed more accuracy from the three-point line after tweaking his shooting mechanics this spring.
“He’s definitely good enough to play in the G League next year,” ESPN draft analyst Fran Fraschilla said last month. “I think he’s potentially a guy who could get a two-way [G League] contract or be a second-round pick and get a guaranteed deal. All those things are on the table for him.”
Pitino now will be relying even more on newcomers in the backcourt. Kalscheur will be joined by transfers Marcus Carr and Payton Willis and incoming freshman recruit Tre’ Williams. The Gophers have two scholarships available for next season. Pitino and his staff already were recruiting to add more backcourt depth, but Coffey’s departure makes finding another guard an even bigger need for 2019-20.
The Gophers will play Butler on Nov. 12 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games between the Big Ten and Big East conferences.