On Thursday, the Illinois Fighting Illini got some tough news as Kofi Cockburn announced he would be remaining in the 2021 NBA Draft and foregoing his remaining eligibility with the program. While an expected departure, this figure to be quite a blow for Brad Underwood and his staff as they look to build off two straight quality seasons.
Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn to remain in NBA Draft. https://t.co/tyXh8liiCN— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) May 27, 2021
Cockburn arrived on campus in 2019 as a highly touted recruit and lived up to the hype, playing 62 games at Illinois and averaging an impressive 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per season last year. His performance was a key part of Illinois’ run to a one seed and the 2021 Big Ten Tournament title, earning All-Big Ten and All-Big Ten Tournament honors along the way. His 16 points and nine rebounds against Ohio State were a huge boost.
It’s still unclear how Cockburn projects as an NBA prospect, but most think he’ll factor somewhere into the 2nd Round, if he’s drafted at all. He’s outside the top 60 in most draft projections and it’s hard to see too much changing in the immediate future.
While Cockburn’s exit was anticipated, there’s little understating how significant this will be for the Illini moving forward. Last year’s team was loaded in the frontcourt, but the program will now enter this season without a proven big man. There will be even more pressure on returning players like Andre Curbelo to elevate their play. Brad Underwood and staff may also get even more active on the recruiting trail with this announcement. We’ll have to stay tuned in the months ahead.