Minnesota high school basketball has produced good talent, enough talent that surrounding programs have migrated in to poach it. Sure, Tubby Smith got Rodney Williams and Royce White, who left the program, and Kris Humphries played a season in Minnesota, but on the whole (and more recently), local talent has never really stayed home. The tide appears to be turning.
Amir Coffey's verbal commitment yesterday means a big time recruit, who other high profile programs sought, is staying home. Pitino has made in roads at some local high schools (in this case powerhouse Hopkins High School - Minnetonka, MN), and the local basketball community will take notice. Coffey certainly has the name recognition to make an impact on coaches and other recruits. (In the 2014 Minnesota State Tournament, Coffey hit a shot from beyond half court at the buzzer, to send his team to the title game.)
Coffey is a smooth, 6'7", 195 pound high school senior, who'll join the Gopher class of 2016. Iowa State, Arizona, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin all offered scholarships. ESPN rated him as a 4-star recruit, and had him number 33 in the ESPN 100 list. How does Coffey project at the next level?
Scouting ReportHis talent is great, but he versatility might be his best attribute. He has the skillset to play multiple wing positions (offensively and defensively). A lefty, Coffey can handle the ball and act as a creator/distributor. (When watching him, and this is a projection, it's difficult not to see a little Jalen Rose in his game.)
He attacks the basket so well, and can finish above the rim, or with either hand. Coffey's a creative driver, so if lanes close up, or defenders slide over, he adjusts his path, or finds an open teammate. He always looks in control when the ball's in his hands. Because of his size and athleticism Coffey could play multiple wing positions, but he would also be a tremendous point guard.
When his feet are set, Coffey can hit a deep jumpshot. At this point, his jumper does enough to open up driving opportunities.
Defensively, Coffey can really impact the game with his length and athleticism. He competes hard on that end. He'll challenge shots, and is effective probing for steals. At Minnesota, he could guard all three wing positions, and if he adds size, might even be able to guard fours.
Areas for ImprovementCoffe will need to get stronger, but the same can be said for most incoming freshman, and he has one year of high school basketball left. So, odds are, he has a lot of development left (physically and emotionally). Even so, he's showed the ability to finish through contact near the basket.
Health-wise, he tore his ACL as a high school junior (early last season), and is on the road to recovery. ACL injuries are different for different people, but the surgery has been perfected and he's young. More than likely, he'll make a fully recovery without losing his explosive athletic ability.
Also, continuing to develop his outside jumper will make him an even more devastating offensive player.
Player OutlookThis is the big fish Minnesota basketball (and Pitino) needed. Not only is he a top talent, but he's also local. So, getting Coffey does two things: Improves their incoming talent for 2016 and grabs the attention of locals.
Coffey's father, Richard, played for the Gophers and the Timberwolves, so perhaps that had something to do with the commitment (wanting to play where he dad played), but either way, he chose Minnesota when other programs were interested. If Pitino's 2015 and 2016 (now with Coffey) elevate the program, others will follow. And, Minnesota certainly has high school basketball players to help Pitino build a talented foundation.