Amir Coffey definitely turned the heads of NBA scouts the last few weeks of the season when he carried the Gophers to an NCAA tournament berth.
Coffey’s breakout junior season came to an end after Saturday’s loss to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament second round in Des Moines.
His father, Richard Coffey, reiterated Sunday what he told the Star Tribune a month ago that his son’s decision to return for his senior season with the Gophers will come after testing the draft process.
“I think he’ll check on to see what the interest is,” Richard Coffey told WCCO. “As a junior, with the new rules of the NCAA and what they’re allowing for players in today’s market I think it’s smart for him to go through the process. Get some feedback, see what people are thinking, see what people are saying and from there make a decision on what next year looks like for him.”
If Coffey returns next season to lead Richard Pitino’s team, below is my very early projected starting lineup and key reserves for the U’s 2019-20 team.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
G- Marcus Carr 6-2 Sophomore
Carr would’ve been the starting point guard this season, but the NCAA denied his waiver to play right away after transferring from Pittsburgh. The Toronto native averaged 10 points and a team-high 4.0 assists in 2017-18, including a 22-point game vs. North Carolina and 16 points and 12 assists vs. Syracuse.
G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Sophomore
Broke the Gophers freshman record for three-point field goals in a season with 77 this year. Team’s best perimeter defender, but Kalscheur’s 24 points and eight rebounds vs. Louisville led the Gophers to their first NCAA tournament win in six years.
G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Senior
Big Ten player of the year and All-American candidate if he returns and plays as aggressively as he did to average 23.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals in his last eight games, which included games of 32, 31 and 27 points in the Michigan State loss in Des Moines.
F- Jarvis Omersa 6-7 Sophomore
Omersa has a ways to go offensively, but his length and athleticism are similar to what the Gophers lost in All-Big Ten senior Jordan Murphy. There was no replacing Murphy, who was sidelined with back spasms in his final college game. Still, Omersa’s defense and rebounding in the blowout loss to the Spartans should motivate him to make a big jump in Year 2 under Pitino.
C-Daniel Oturu 6-10 Sophomore
Oturu will have All-Big Ten and NBA potential next season. He led all freshmen in rebounding (7.0), field goal percentage (55.1) and blocks (1.3) this season. The former Cretin-Derham Hall star should replace Murphy as the U’s top low-post scoring inside presence after adding muscle and weight to his frame in the offseason. If he develops into the elite shot blocker he was in high school – look out Big Ten.
F/C- Eric Curry 6-9 Junior
He definitely has the talent to be a major contributor next season, but Curry needs time coming off two season-ending injuries (knee and foot) to get comfortable without the pressure of being a star. If his recovery goes smoothly in the offseason, the Memphis native should push Omersa for the starting power forward spot. So he could easily move up on this list by October.
G- Payton Willis 6-4 Junior
Curry’s buddy and former AAU teammate in Arkansas should have fun playing together with him as the first players off the bench. They could both easily start, so competition should be the best Pitino has seen in years. Willis can shoot the three-point shot, but also is an athletic slasher.
F- Michael Hurt 6-7 Senior
Hurt probably should’ve played more this season, but he can really be the glue guy the Gophers need. When he’s confident, he can be a scoring and rebounding threat, but his best asset is his passing and unselfishness.
G-Isaiah Washington 6-1 Junior
Everyone asks if Washington will transfer, but he says he will be back next season right now. That would help add depth to the Gophers at point guard, where you can never have enough depth. His playmaking ability when he made good decisions helped the team, but opportunities were scarce.
G-Tre Williams 6-5 Freshman
This future Gopher is on display with his Wasatch Academy (Utah) teammates in Times Square this week with a billboard promoting the Geico Nationals April 4-6 in NYC, which will be televised on ESPN. Like Kalscheur, Williams should be able to defend immediately at the college level.
ON THE RADAR
F- Isaiah Ihinen 6-9 HS Senior
An 18-year-old up-and-coming prospect in Germany said Tuesday he will see Minnesota, Tennessee and TCU during his official visit tour from April 19-24. Ihinen patterns his versatile game after his favorite NBA player Kevin Durant, and also has a Durant-like 7-4 wingspan.
G- Grant Sherfield 6-2 HS Senior
Four-star Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.) combo guard was a former UCLA commit, but he reopened his recruitment. He visited the Gophers earlier this month, but is in no rush to make a decision.
PF or C – Pitino and his Gophers staff are definitely looking to sign a Division I transfer (maybe even two players) who could play immediately. They need to add experience to the frontcourt with the loss of seniors Murphy and Stockman. Louisiana Tech forward Anthony Duruji, who reportedly has a 46-inch vertical leap, has already heard from Minnesota. There will be bigger transfer names surfacing this spring.