Kofi Cockburn staying with Illinois after entering transfer portal

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ESPN 16 July, 2021 - 05:25pm 5 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

Kofi Cockburn staying at Illinois for his junior season

Chicago Tribune 17 July, 2021 - 09:11am

In a one-minute video posted on Twitter, Cockburn talked about building upon last season’s success.

“Champaign became my home and Illinois basketball became my family,” he said in the video. “I will never forget what these three last years have meant to me as a person and a player. But it’s time to move forward. It’s time to put the past in the past and take the next step.”

The 7-foot Cockburn withdrew his name from the NBA draft July 6 but kept it in the NCAA transfer portal, which allowed him to talk to other schools or remain at Illinois.

In an interview with ESPN the same day, Cockburn said Kentucky — where former Illini assistant coach Orlando Antigua, Cockburn’s primary recruiter at Illinois, is now on staff — was a “serious option.” But The Athletic reported Wednesday that talks between Cockburn and the Wildcats never escalated and that Florida State was his main suitor besides Illinois.

Retaining Cockburn — a consensus second-team All-America and first-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore — gives coach Brad Underwood five of the top eight scorers back from the 2020-21 team that went 24-7, won the Big Ten Tournament and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

All-America guard Ayo Dosunmu entered the NBA draft as expected, reserve big man Giorgi Bezhanishvili also bypassed his senior season to turn pro and guard Adam Miller — who started every game as a freshman — transferred to LSU. Illinois also lost Antigua and fellow assistant coach Chin Coleman to Kentucky as well as seldom-used big man Jermaine Hamlin, who transferred to Eastern Illinois.

On the plus side, senior guards Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams opted to return to Illinois — taking advantage of the NCAA granting all 2020-21 athletes an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and Underwood added a pair of transfers in Utah guard Alfonso Plummer and Florida forward Omar Payne.

They’ll team with Cockburn, sophomore point guard Andre Curbelo — the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year — and senior wing Jacob Grandison to give the Illini a veteran core in 2021-22.

“We are beyond thrilled to have Kofi remain a Fighting Illini and add the nation’s top player to our lineup,” Underwood said in a statement. “Kofi has been thorough during every step of his process, from exploring professional opportunities to making the decision to return to college. He has played a major role in our success the last two years and has more individual and team goals to achieve this season. Kofi will have the chance to expand new aspects of his game while continuing to be a dominant inside force on both ends of the floor.”

Cockburn led the Big Ten in rebounding (9.5 per game) and field-goal percentage (65.4%) last season and was fifth in scoring (17.7 ppg). He told ESPN he plans to work on his midrange game and passing ability to improve his NBA draft stock.

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