The Illinois Fighting Illini learned today that rising junior big man Kofi Cockburn would be returning for his junior season after entering the transfer portal. He briefly considered other programs like the Kentucky Wildcats and Florida State Seminoles before returning to the program he’s called home for two years now. Cockburn tested the 2021 NBA Draft process but also removed his name from that before deciding to return to Illinois for his third season in college basketball. This is great news for a program that lost a few players this offseason.
Early prediction on Illinois’ 21-22 starting five:
Andre Curbelo, Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams, Jacob Grandison, Kofi Cockburn
REMEMBER: Illinois was 3-0 without Ayo Dosunmu last season and won games at both Michigan and Wisconsin. https://t.co/AvejYFwBU4
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) July 16, 2021
Kofi Cockburn will enter the season as a top contender for the National Player of the Year award and a dominant force for the Fighting Illini. He was a major factor last season in the program’s race to a one seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. During that special season last year, he averaged 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game as a sophomore. He paired those numbers with a field goal percentage of 65.4 percent from the field. Cockburn was clearly the anchor of the team and his return should help Illinois remain a contender for the Big Ten and Big Ten Tournament Championships.
Illinois may or may not contend for another one seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, but they should easily make an appearance near the top of the seeding. Kofi Cockburn’s goals will be to try and help his program win an NCAA Championship and improve his stock with NBA teams. If all goes well he could be looking ahead to the 2022 NBA Draft.