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‘BTPowerhouse 25’ - No. 3 Kofi Cockburn

BTPowerhouse’s staff counts down the best players in the Big Ten heading into the 2020-’21 season.

Illinois v Ohio State Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

In the months leading up to the 2020-’21 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the ‘BTPowerhouse 25,’ which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.

Today’s edition will take a brief look at Kofi Cockburn with the Illinois Fighting Illini. Cockburn is one of the best freshman centers to come through the Big Ten in my own personal memory. He recorded 12 double-doubles last season, and was a probable NBA Draft prospect before opting in the end to return to Illinois. He will be a force as a sophomore this season.

‘BTPowerhouse 25’ - No. 3 Kofi Cockburn:

  • Eligibility: Sophomore
  • Career Totals: 31 games, 850 minutes, 413 points, 272 rebounds, 20 assists
  • 2019-’20 Averages: 27.4 min, 13.3 pts, 8.8 rebs, 0.6 asts, 1.4 blks, 0.5 stls
  • Positional Role: Center

Illinois finally experienced a breakout last season under head coach Brad Underwood. The Fighting Illini finished No. 4 in the conference, and that was largely thanks to the play from two players, one of them being Cockburn. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year by both coaches & media, Big Ten Newcomer of the Year by the AP, was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, along with the Third-team All-Big Ten team by media and honorable mention All-Big Ten by coaches. He also earned seven Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, which is second-most in Big Ten history.

-Player Strengths

Cockburn is a scoring machine. Last season he had just seven games he failed to score in double-digits. Most of those games also came when he was in foul trouble, though not all of those also saw lower than average minutes. Cockburn shot 53.4-percent from inside the arc, and scored 20 or more points five times last season. He is also a phenomenal rebounder. He grabbed double-digit rebounds in 12 games, and eight or more in 19 games. He can box out just about anybody big man wise and get the loose ball for his team.

Cockburn is also outstanding at the pick-and-roll and mid-to-low post. Paired with Dosunmu, they make one of the best duos in the country, let alone the Big Ten. Cockburn excels on the vertical finish off a roll. Finally, while he is no slouch at shot blocking, he is even better at forcing opponents to alter their shot at the rim.

-Areas for Improvement

It is getting a little nit-picky when pointing out a 7-foot center has no three-point game whatsoever. In fact, Cockburn did not attempt a single shot from deep as a freshman. That is hardly surprising, but it does put at least one small limit on his game. However, he could also stand to improve his shot from inside the arc as well. While he is no slouch scoring, there are certainly bigs out there that had high usage and a significantly higher shooting percentage than his 53.4-percent average last season. Cockburn is by all means a big scorer, but if he can match some of the more elite big men last season who shot close to the same attempts and more in line with 60-percent averages, he will be incredibly lethal.

Cockburn also could try to improve his defense on more versatile forwards. Once he is forced off a fellow big man at center, he struggles to contain more versatile power forwards on the defensive end. If he can improve his reaction time and lateral movement speed then he will be able to better help his team when forced to switch assignments or play against smaller line-ups.

-Player Projection

Cockburn has a lot of potential to improve on a monster freshman year this season. He will also have plenty of court time to have the opportunity as well. The duo of Cockburn and Dosunmu will be a lethal threat this season for Big Ten opponents, If Cockburn has the type of growth fans can expect of him his sophomore year, it is likely he doesn’t come back for a junior year.


‘BTPowerhouse 25’ Rankings: