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Caldwell cobras truly a family affair

This wasn’t the way Jeff Coffey thought his life would turn out.
His dream was to play professional basketball, but through a series of events and perhaps divine intervention, his plan changed. Now a far greater dream is being realized at Caldwell Community College.
Jeff and son Jeremy, a 2002 graduate from Bandys High School, play on the Cobras, which are the No. 12 team in the country with a 15-9 record.
At 6’4” in 1977, with gifted athleticism and a feathery touch, Jeff racked up accolades as easily as he racked up points.
He was a High School All-American as a senior on a team that included ‘Big Game’ James Worthy, then at Ashbrook and Sleepy Floyd, at Hunter Huss. A First Team All-Gaston Gazette selection and All-Southern District 7 nod followed for Jeff was Mustangs Co-MVP with Lewis ‘Re-C’ Lowery, one of his best friends.
Coffey averaged 17.3 points per game for his prep career. As a senior, he averaged a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Wake Forest and N.C. State recruited him, but at the time the requirement was having two foreign languages. Coffey did not have those, so he chose to go to Caldwell where he averaged 21 points per game as freshman. After such a successful freshman season, he left the school and tried his hand at NBA.
Coffey bounced around Pro-Am Leagues and once was invited to work out for the Washington Bullets in 1982. Still with the desire to play basketball, he attempted to make the CBA and World Basketball League in 1988, but he never signed a contract.
Jeremy, Jeff’s 20-year old son, was recruited by Dartmouth and Virginia Tech, but an ACL (torn knee ligament) scared some recruiters off. As a result, he decided to sign with Caldwell.
Jeff was enrolled in four classes at the time of his son’s signing. He would often work out with the team just to scratch his basketball itch.
That’s when opportunity and fate met. Caldwell lost three players for not meeting Caldwell’s academic requirements.
Cobras’ head coach Bill Payne asked Jeff if he was ready to join the team. Having never signed a pro contract, Jeff maintained his amateur status.
“I told him ‘sure’,” Jeff said.
He’s not the same player as he was in 1978, but Jeff is averaging two points and two rebounds a game.
More importantly is his intangibles, such as knowledge of the game and leadership. Since Jeff joined the team at Christmas break, Caldwell has gone 8-0, having started the season at 7-9.
Jeremy believes the win streak is no coincidence.
“He brings major leadershop. He’s always vocal, always gets us pumped. Just him being on the floor; he really doesn’t have to say anything. He’s just a natural-born leader.”
Wednesday night, Pat and C.E., Jeff’s parents and Jeremy’s grandparents, and wife Anna watched Jeff and Jeremy play against Catawba Valley, whom they beat 101-78.
“It was, in a way, a thrill just to have them there. It was sort of sad, because I couldn’t do the things that I used to do,” Jeff said.
Even though his son is just a shadow, on the court, of what he once was, his father was proud nonetheless.
“I think it’s wonderful. Jeff has always been such a basketball fanatic and he just can’t give the sport up. He’s played in the industrial leagues the last few year, so this was his opportunity to go back and play organized ball,” he said.
“It’s totally different, but I tell you what… there is nothing like playing on the same team as your son,” Jeff said.
His son agrees.
“It’s fun and I never thought I would ever be able to play on the same team with my dad. It’s a new experience and I like it,” saidJeremy, who averages three points a game, two rebounds and two assists.
Some young men would be embarrassed by their dad suiting up beside them, but not Jeremy.
“I welcomed it with open arms. Maybe some kids would have a problem with it, but I thought it was awesome. Especially being on the same court at the same time, passing each other the ball,” he said.
Jeremy looks at it as a blessing.
knows just how fortunate he is.
“Most 45-year olds struggle playing pick-up ball and my dad is out there running with 19 and 20 year-old kids and playing just as hard,” he said.
Basketball teams are often said to be a family. Two of the Cobras are just that, pun intended.
“All my teammates love having him out there. They tell me, ‘I wish my pop was out there.’”
Perhaps, just as special as the two being teammates on a college team, is the fact both the father and son seem to relish the opportunity and is proud of each other.
“I’m very proud of him (Jeremy), not only because he’s a good player, but because he’s a good Christian boy. I’m proud of him that he is able to play at this level and I think he can go on to play at a four-year school.”

by John Mark Brooks

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