On Saturday, the Illinois Fighting Illini got some exciting news as freshman big man Kofi Cockburn announced that he would be foregoing the 2020 NBA Draft and returning to campus for his sophomore season with the program. He figures to fill out what should be a loaded Illini lineup this season. Obviously, this is exciting news for Brad Underwood and his staff.
Cockburn arrived on campus last fall as one of the Big Ten’s most heralded prospects. And in his first year, he certainly lived up to the hype, averaging an impressive 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Cockburn came up particularly big in a number of games last season, including a 22-point performance on the road against Purdue and double-digits in seven of his final eight games last season.
This return also wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Many thought Cockburn had an outside shot at getting drafted this year. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie rated him as a top 100 prospect and there’s a chance he could have moved higher with more workouts.
Of course, fans will now have to wait at least one more year to see where Cockburn might land as a pro prospect. And in the meantime, he figures to be a key contributor on a really good Illini team next season. Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier should lead things in the backcourt, the team has a few options on the wing, and Cockburn can close out things upfront. With that group, Illinois would not only make some serious noise in the Big Ten, but should be a relevant factor nationally.
What Cockburn and Illinois will accomplish next season remains to be seen, but this has to be exciting news for fans and the coaching staff.