The Illini suffered a major setback this week when star center Kofi Cockburn announced that he was entering the transfer portal.
Illinois star Kofi Cockburn is officially in the transfer portal, sources told ESPN.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) July 1, 2021
Cockburn was a second team All-American and first team All-Big Ten last season and had already declared for the NBA Draft, with sources claiming in May he was going to stay in the draft and not return to campus. While Cockburn could decide to remain in the draft, entering the portal implies he’s going to look for somewhere else to play next season and work on developing his skillset for the NBA.
In his sophomore season with the Illini the seven footer averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, helping Illinois earn a one seed. The season ended prematurely, though, when they were knocked out by Loyola Chicago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Since Cockburn announced he was entering the portal there has been heavy speculation linking the big man to Kentucky. The Wildcats hired former Illini assistant coaches Chin Coleman and Orlando Antigua this offseason. Kentucky would also be a good place to potentially help Cockburn further develop for a potential career in the NBA, even more so as ESPN barely lists him in the top 100 of their recent draft rankings.
The decision to enter the portal has led people to speculate that Cockburn hasn’t gotten good feedback from NBA teams and will likely remain in college for at least another season. Now the question is if he’ll head elsewhere or ultimately decide to return to Illinois next season.