Gophers coach Richard Pitino and his staff aren’t just searching for the next Daniel Oturu, they’re also looking for the next Amir Coffey, too.
Pitino and assistant coach Ed Conroy have been in constant contact with Rice transfer Drew Peterson, who resembles Coffey’s size and game.
The 6-foot-8 Libertyville, Ill. native averaged 11.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season as a sophomore. Since announcing his transfer last week, Peterson has also heard from Creighton, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech and Stanford.
On Thursday, Peterson talked to the Star Tribune about the U’s interest in him and the virtual tour he took of Minnesota’s campus and Athletes Village facilities.
“Coach Pitino, the staff and I had a great virtual visit,” Peterson said. “I got to see everything from facilities to play-style to living situations. And I was really impressed. Been talking to them a lot over the last couple days.”
Coffey, a 6-8 guard from Hopkins, left the Gophers after his junior year when he led them to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Pitino has been selling to Peterson that he could fill a similar role. Coffey had 115 assists in his last year. Peterson had 112 last year playing multiple positions on the perimeter.
“They can see me playing anything from [point guard] to [wing] and coming off ball screens,” he said. “Amir Coffey-style comparisons.”
Now on a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, Coffey has found a place in the NBA as a rookie. Peterson watched some game film from Coffey’s Gophers games to see where he could fit in with Pitino’s system.
“Love how they had him coming off screens looking to attack and create,” Peterson added. “Saw a lot of stuff on him.”
The Gophers struggled to replace Coffey’s presence last season finishing 15-16 despite Oturu and sophomore point guard Marcus Carr earning second and third team All-Big Ten honors, respectively.
Also being recruited by Pitino and Conroy is Peterson’s Rice teammate Trey Murphy, a springy 6-8 sophomore forward. Murphy’s game is completely different, so it doesn’t hurt the Gophers to be after them both, Peterson said.
Oturu, a 6-10 All-American sophomore center, declared for the NBA Draft and won’t return. The priority is definitely to fill his shoes in spring recruiting. Wichita State transfer Morris Udeze cut his list to five on Thursday with the Gophers joining Arizona State, Butler, Cincinnati and Xavier.
Udeze and Peterson would both have two years of eligibility remaining, but they would have to sit out next season with current transfer rules. The NCAA, however, could be meeting this summer to determine whether to allow one-time immediate eligibility to all transfers.