Senior Nia Coffey was selected in the first round of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft by the San Antonio Stars, the highest pick of any Northwestern University basketball player, male or female, in school history.
The 6-foot-1-inch Coffey, who is expected to graduate from the School of Education and Social Policy in June, was the second Wildcats women’s player to be drafted since Amy Jaeschke in 2011. The fifth pick overall, she also was the highest of four Big Ten players selected in the first round.
“This is a huge shot for the Northwestern program," Wildcats assistant coach Christie Sides told the Chicago Tribune. "Nia Coffey has pretty much put this team on her shoulders. She has grown here over the last four years...she is a workhorse. I think Nia's best basketball is ahead of her."
Coffey, who studied learning and organizational change in the School of Education and Social Policy -- and completed her practicum with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky -- averaged 20 points and 10.4 rebounds as a senior and 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds for her NCAA career.
Coffey’s combination of athleticism and offensive talent made her a multidimensional threat and a crowd favorite.
“She’s only scratched the surface of her potential — her size, her length, she can drive it, she can shoot it and pull up off of the pick and roll, which is a primary offense in the WNBA,” ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson said in a media teleconference.
“The Nia Coffey Show was incredible to watch in person,” added Tristan Jung in Inside NU. “There was nothing more exciting to watch on a women’s basketball court than a Nia Coffey chase-down block. When she blocked your shot, she didn’t just block it. She spiked it into the neighboring county.”
Coffey, a native of Minneapolis, was the first player in Northwestern women’s basketball history to earn Big Ten First Team honors all four years. She holds the school record for rebounds (1,183) and free throws made (496) and attempted (753). She is second in career points (2,287) and blocked shots (229). In 2013, Coffey won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Lithuania.
In high school, Coffey was the top-ranked recruit out of Minnesota, where she was a four-time Distinguished Academic Achievement Award winner who led her team to three state championships and As a seventh grader, she competed in the varsity high school state track meet. Coffey also was a National Junior Olympics Track silver medalist in the 100 and 200-meters.
Sides, a former Chicago Sky coach, told the Chicago Tribune she knew early on that Coffey had unlimited potential. During one post-game locker room session, “she was literally laying in front of her chair -- she just played so hard," Sides said. "I tell players all the time that I want to tear them off the floor -- I want them to play that hard -- she represents that."