ANAHEIM, Calif. – Phil Cofer wasn’t on the floor with the Seminoles Thursday, but his Florida State teammates still made room for the redshirt senior prior to their Sweet 16 clash against Gonzaga.
Cofer usually stands between guards Terrance Mann and David Nichols during the national anthem, so when the Seminoles formed a line before Thursday’s anthem, Mann and Nichols left Cofer’s space open, playing homage to the player who’s not been with the team this week while mourning the death of his father in Georgia.
“Me and David stand next to Phil, so we opened up and put a spot for him just to feel his presence, feel he’s there,” Mann said. “He’s our leader, he’s a captain, so we wanted to make it feel like he’s there, make him feel even if he saw it or not, make it feel like he’s home still.”
The Seminoles have honored Cofer’s father, Michael, throughout their stay in Anaheim this week. Black patches with the initials “MC” were sewn onto FSU’s jerseys this week and the Seminoles filled Cofer’s locker in the Honda Center with the player’s uniform and other apparel items before Thursday’s game.
Most FSU players have sharpied “MC” or “Michael Cofer” onto their shoes, too. That gesture wasn’t pre-coordinated either.
“We all walked into the gym one day,” PJ Savoy said, “and everybody had the same thing (on their shoes).”
The Seminoles had been in communication with Cofer leading up to Thursday’s game, sending positive messages to their teammate and getting the same back from Cofer.
“He’s always with us at all times,” Raiquan Gray said. “We know the type of person Phil is. He’s a leader on this team, so we just have that much respect for him. We know that even though he wasn’t here physically, he was still here with us spiritually. And that’s just our respect for him.”
FSU could’ve used the fifth-year forward on the floor in a 72-58 loss to the Bulldogs. Cofer started in 19 of the 22 games he played this season and was averaging 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds for the Seminoles, though he hadn’t played in the last two games because of a foot injury.
“Not having Phil definitely hurt us, at that four position to be able to bang in there and box out,” Mann said.
On a night they struggled to find their 3-point stroke, Cofer and Nichols – sidelined with a lower leg injury – could’ve given FSU a few pick-me-up buckets from the three-point arc.
“We definitely would’ve made more 3’s, but that’s life,” Mann said. “There’s nothing you can do about it now.”
Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins offered his condolences to the Seminoles and to Cofer in the Bulldogs’ locker room afterward.
“Obviously I feel good about the win, but they’ve been going through some tough things on their end and you never want to hear stuff like that,” Perkins said. “I feel good about winning, going on to the Elite Eight, but my heart is with them.”
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