JUST IN: Kofi Cockburn returning to Illini for third season

Sports

247Sports 16 July, 2021 - 04:44pm 26 views

Where is Kofi Cockburn going?

The biggest men's basketball name to enter the transfer portal in, well, the history of the transfer portal is not transferring after all. Star big man Kofi Cockburn, a 2020–21 consensus All-America honoree, is headed back to Champaign for his third season at Illinois, he announced Friday. Sports IllustratedAfter a Rough Offseason, Illinois Strikes Gold With Kofi Cockburn's Return

Is Kofi Cockburn coming back?

Kofi Cockburn will be back in Champaign this fall, and he'll have a chance to be the country's best player. The rising junior center announced on Friday that he intends to play for Illinois during the 2021-22 season. The Champaign RoomKofi Cockburn returning to Illinois for junior season

Cockburn's return to Illinois official

Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette 16 July, 2021 - 07:10pm

One of Editor & Publisher’s ‘10 That Do It Right 2021’

Thunderstorms early, then partly cloudy after midnight. Low 62F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 60%..

Thunderstorms early, then partly cloudy after midnight. Low 62F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 60%.

Finishing at the rim was a common sight this season for Kofi Cockburn. Often multiple times in the same game. The Illini big man finished off a nation-best 78 dunks this season, including this one against Wisconsin.

Finishing at the rim was a common sight this season for Kofi Cockburn. Often multiple times in the same game. The Illini big man finished off a nation-best 78 dunks this season, including this one against Wisconsin.

CHAMPAIGN — The last three months have been a veritable roller coaster for the Illinois basketball program. But Friday proved a smooth finish to the at times bumpy ride.

"Champaign became my home, and Illinois basketball became my family," Cockburn said in his announcement video. "I’ll never forget what these last two years have meant to me as a person and as a player. But it’s time to move forward. It’s time to put the past in the past and take the next step. It’s time to bring a national championship back to Champaign."

The Illinois junior announced his return on social media Friday evening after going through both the NBA pre-draft process and the transfer portal. A top three that also included Kentucky and Florida State was narrowed to one.

“It instantly makes Illinois a top three team in the Big Ten and a top 10 team nationally,” CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein told The News-Gazette. “The expectation is to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten and a top team nationally. That gives Illinois fans, in my opinion, another season that has a chance at a run to a potential Final Four.”

It’s a significant bit of news for Illinois following what had been mostly roster and coaching staff turnover this offseason. Adam Miller transferred to LSU. The entire group of assistant coaches left, too, with Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman at Kentucky and Stephen Gentry back at Gonzaga.

Cockburn’s decision to return likely puts a cap on that somewhat tumultuous offseason. Illinois coach Brad Underwood rebuilt his staff with Chester Frazier, Geoff Alexander and Tim Anderson and bolstered his roster with Utah transfer guard Alfonso Plummer and Florida transfer forward Omar Payne.

Cockburn was the final piece — perhaps — to the puzzle. Certainly the biggest in terms of potential impact for the 2021-22 season. Underwood still has one open scholarship to work with, but can now be much more selective with how he uses it.

One player can alter a program that much. Particularly when he’s a returning consensus Second Team All-American that proved to be one of the most dominant bigs in college basketball last season.

Cockburn withdrew from the draft after feedback showed it might not be his year. At least in the NBA. It could well be the 7-foot, 285-pound center’s year in college basketball.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.

Illinois' Kofi Cockburn returning to team

The Athletic 16 July, 2021 - 05:13pm

Big man Kofi Cockburn will return to Illinois despite entering his name in the transfer portal 15 days ago, he announced on Friday.

Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 65.4 percent from the field as a sophomore at Illinois this past season. The Fighting Illini were the Midwest region's No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament but were knocked out in the second round by eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago.

The 7-foot, 285-pound center put his name in the portal on July 1 ahead of the midnight deadline for players to be eligible for next season. At the time, he also kept his name in the NBA Draft but later withdrew it on July 6. In an interview with ESPN, he confirmed that his name was still in the portal, saying "there's a possibility I return to Illinois and a possibility I don't."

The 7-footer and preseason All-American entered the transfer portal after pulling out of the NBA Draft.

Cockburn went from a gangly 6-8 kid on the freshman team to a 7-foot, 285-pound college sophomore averaging a double-double for Illinois.

The freshman center is already making an impact, but he has only begun to scratch the surface.

The 7-footer and preseason All-American entered the transfer portal after pulling out of the NBA Draft.

Cockburn went from a gangly 6-8 kid on the freshman team to a 7-foot, 285-pound college sophomore averaging a double-double for Illinois.

The freshman center is already making an impact, but he has only begun to scratch the surface.

Sports Stories

Top Stores