Sources Say Podcast Ep. 109: Kofi Cockburn returns to Illinois, the latest on Jalen Duren

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kentuckysportsradio.com 17 July, 2021 - 02:00pm 8 views

Is Kofi Cockburn staying at Illinois?

Kofi Cockburn is staying at Illinois for his junior season, a huge boost for the defending Big Ten Tournament champions. In the biggest news of a roller-coaster offseason for Illinois basketball, All-America center Kofi Cockburn announced Friday he's staying in Champaign for his junior season. Chicago TribuneKofi Cockburn staying at Illinois for his junior season

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

Cockburn entered the transfer portal on July 1, the last day to enter and still be eligible to play elsewhere next season. Kentucky was initially considered the favorite due to the Wildcats hiring assistant coaches Chin Coleman and Orlando Antigua from Illinois' staff this offseason, while Florida State was also on Cockburn's final list of three schools.

Sources told ESPN at the time that Cockburn hadn't closed the door on a return to Illinois, and Brad Underwood and his staff were able to convince the 7-foot Jamaica native to come back to the Big Ten.

Arguably the most dominant big man in the country, Cockburn earned first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American honors last season after averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks last season. He shot 65.4% from the field and had 16 double-doubles, including a 33-point, 13-rebound performance against Minnesota in December. He also had 26 points against Luka Garza and Iowa in the Big Ten tournament.

Illinois, which won the Big Ten Conference tournament and earned a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament, lost two starters from last season, including All-American point guard Ayo Dosunmu. With Cockburn back in the fold, however, the Fighting Illini have an argument to be ranked inside the top 25. Trent Frazier (10.2 PPG) and Andre Curbelo (9.1 PPG) will form a dynamic backcourt, while Da'Monte Williams (5.5 PPG) and Jacob Grandison (4.6 PPG) will split time on the wing.

Underwood also brings in ESPN 100 recruits Ramses Melendez (No. 54) and Luke Goode (No. 80), along with transfers Omar Payne and Alfonso Plummer from Florida and Utah, respectively.

Cockburn is likely to be a first-team preseason All-American and the preseason favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year.

Read full article at kentuckysportsradio.com

Kofi Cockburn announces return to Illinois after considering transferring to Kentucky, Florida State

CBS Sports 17 July, 2021 - 09:01pm

The top-ranked player in the CBS Sports college basketball transfer rankings isn't transferring after all, as Illinois star Kofi Cockburn announced Friday that he's returning to the Illini for a third season. Cockburn's return is huge for Illinois after the 7-footer seemed intent on pursuing a professional career and then entered the transfer portal before ultimately withdrawing from the NBA Draft.

"It's to bring the national championship back to Champaign," Cockburn said in a video announcing his decision.

KING’S BACK 🦍 pic.twitter.com/NooK3q9BKp

Cockburn considered Kentucky and Florida State as transfer destinations but will return to lead a team that should again be among the best in the Big Ten after a breakthrough 2020-21 campaign. With Cockburn patrolling the post, the Illini earned a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds on 65.4% shooting last season while earning second-team All-American honors from CBS Sports.

Illinois loses first-team All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu but will return talented guards Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo to form a strong nucleus along with Cockburn. Despite his dominance in college basketball, Cockburn's professional credentials remain a work in progress due to his status as a throwback center. Few can match his interior physicality, but Cockburn will likely have to develop a 3-point shot and show defensive development to become a first-round NBA Draft prospect.

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Kofi Cockburn announces he'll return to Illinois after being in the transfer portal

WAND 17 July, 2021 - 09:01pm

Widely scattered showers or a thunderstorm this evening. Then partly cloudy. Low 63F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 30%..

Widely scattered showers or a thunderstorm this evening. Then partly cloudy. Low 63F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 30%.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) -- On July 1, Kofi Cockburn sent a shockwave through college basketball by announcing he's entering the transfer portal.

Today, the consensus NCAA Second-Team All American announced he's returning to play at Illinois.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) -- On July 1, Kofi Cockburn sent a shockwave through college basketball by announcing he's entering the transfer portal.

Today, the consensus NCAA Second-Team All American announced he's returning to play at Illinois.

Cockburn, who was a sophomore in the 2020-21 season, was named to the Wooden Award All-American Team.

He averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting over 65 percent from the field in his sophomore season.

Cockburn also ranked third nationally with 16 double-doubles.

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Return of Kofi: AP preseason All-America team

Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette 17 July, 2021 - 09:01pm

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

Cloudy early with some clearing expected late. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 62F. Winds light and variable..

Cloudy early with some clearing expected late. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 62F. Winds light and variable.

Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) and Iowa’s center Luka Garza (55)in a semifinal matchup of the Big Ten basketball tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) and Iowa’s center Luka Garza (55)in a semifinal matchup of the Big Ten basketball tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

AP Top 25 beat writer Scott Richey's adjusted preseason All-America first team now that Kofi Cockburn has announced his return to the Illini:

Martin averaged 19.1 points in each of the past two seasons at Arizona State and was a more efficient three-point shooter last year than the year before. A new college basketball home shouldn’t change that.

Juzang had his breakout moment in the NCAA tournament, averaging 22.8 points and four rebounds and shooting 38 percent from three-point range in the Bruins’ run to the Final Four. Could he do that for a full season?

The two-time News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year had a breakout sophomore season with the Buckeyes. What he does after becoming a true stretch 4 threat and more than doubling his scoring last season will be interesting to watch.

Timme is going to benefit from playing next to Chet Holmgren given the five-star freshman’s defensive ability. That should simply allow him be the guy that averaged 19 points, seven rebounds and 2.3 assists last year.

Cockburn put up 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season playing with a high usage scorer in Ayo Dosunmu. Just imagine what the 7-footer could do in 2021-22 with Andre Curbelo in that lead guard role full time.

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).

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Kofi Cockburn makes decision on 2021-22 CBB season

Saturday Tradition 17 July, 2021 - 09:01pm

Kofi Cockburn had plenty of Illinois fans worried during the offseason, but that’s over now. The star center is heading back to Champaign.

Cockburn announced on Instagram Friday that he’ll be returning to Illinois for one more season. He had been in the NCAA transfer portal and considering other options.

Cockburn declared for the NBA Draft at the end of the 2020-21 season but kept his college eligibility. He withdrew before the deadline after testing the waters.

Three schools were in contention to land Cockburn: Illinois, Kentucky and Florida State.

Cockburn was excellent as a sophomore with the Illini, scoring 17.7 points per game en route to second-team All-American honors. He helped lead the Illini to a Big Ten Tournament championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Illinois also lost star guard Ayo Dosunmu this offseason as he prepares to play in the NBA. Brad Underwood’s squad is expected to remain competitive next season, but it will be a younger and less-experienced lineup.

The return of Cockburn is a huge boost to Illinois heading into next season.

Illinois All-American Kofi Cockburn Makes Transfer Decision

The Spun 17 July, 2021 - 09:01pm

What's trending in the sports world today.

Most of the time, when a high-profile college athlete enters the transfer portal, they wind up leaving their school. Illinois men’s basketball star Kofi Cockburn just became a very notable exception.

Cockburn, a 7-footer from Jamaica, was named a consensus second-team All-American center after his sophomore year with the Fighting Illini. He initially entered the NBA Draft, but eventually pulled his name out and entered the transfer portal.

Earlier this week, he revealed his three options: a return to Illinois for his junior season, or a move to Florida State or Kentucky. Illinois assistant coach Orlando Antigua’s move to Kentucky was a factor in the decision, as Cockburn admitted he was the reason that he committed to the Illini, and that UK was a “serious option.” Reporting out of Kentucky would shoot that down later on in the process though.

Now, Kofi Cockburn has confirmed his return to Illinois. He posted a hype video that should have Fighting Illini fans very excited for what’s to come in 2021-22.

KING’S BACK 🦍 pic.twitter.com/NooK3q9BKp

— Kofi Cockburn (@kxng_alpha) July 16, 2021

Kofi Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season, helping Illinois earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The team was considered a leading national championship favorite, but wound up getting upset by eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago in the second round. Cockburn had 21 points and nine boards in that game.

He’ll certainly be looking for a deep run next March, and Illinois basketball is poised for another huge season with today’s news.

[Kofi Cockburn]

Dan is an Editor at The Spun.

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Return of Kofi: Good vibes only

Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette 17 July, 2021 - 09:01pm

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

Some clouds. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 64F. Winds light and variable..

Some clouds. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 64F. Winds light and variable.

CHAMPAIGN — Kofi Cockburn’s decision to enter the transfer portal and follow through on it even after withdrawing from the 2021 NBA draft created waves in the college basketball world.

Cockburn was arguably the highest profile player to enter the portal since its inception. Simply put, consensus All-Americans just don’t transfer.

Zero in the last 30 years.

Cockburn announced his decision to return Illinois early Friday evening, giving an instant boost to a basketball program that could use one after the roller coaster that had been the Illini offseason. Cockburn’s announcement was the smooth finish to that at times bumpy ride.

“Champaign became my home, and Illinois basketball became my family,” Cockburn said during his announcement video he shared on social media. He was not otherwise available for comment on Friday evening.

“I’ll never forget what these last two years have meant to me as a person and as a player,” Cockburn’s video narration continued. “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.”

Illinois’ continued pursuit of a national championship isn’t exactly out of the question. Cockburn’s return to Illinois created some ripples of its own, raising the team’s national profile in the same way Ayo Dosunmu and Cockburn did last summer when they opted for another season in Champaign.

“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.”

The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy was of a similar opinion. Cockburn back in Champaign reinserts Illinois into the thick of the eventual Big Ten race. The Illini will be title contenders again.

“I wouldn’t put them at the front of that line, but if you’re in the mix for that, you’re really in the mix for just about everything,” DeCourcy told The News-Gazette.

Cockburn might have been the highest profile player to withdraw from this year’s NBA draft, but he wasn’t alone in that move. Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell and Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and DeVante’ Jones made similar decisions. So did UCLA’s Johnny Juzang, St. John’s Julian Champagnie, Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr. and Texas Tech’s Terrence Shannon Jr.

The opportunity in college basketball with the passing of name, image and likeness legislation has made eschewing the draft in favor of a return a chance to earn some money and still develop for the pros.

“I don’t have any problem with guys going who are first-round picks, lottery picks,” DeCourcy said. “It’s the smart move for them. But guys who weren’t going to be selected or were going to be selected late, they can continue to develop. Pretty much everybody on that list can get better significantly.

“The improvement Ayo made a year ago is an ideal example of that. He went out of the 2020 season as an average shooter to below average shooter and came back as a terrific shooter. That’s what’s possible. I think the game overall will be much better with that numbers of players returning and that number of players working hard to make the kind of jumps Ayo did last year.”

Cockburn has room to make improvement. Both DeCourcy and Rothstein mentioned the 7-foot, 285-pound center turning into a more willing and capable passer out of the post to better utilize what could be an improved three-point shooting Illinois team. The get-to-the-NBA growth, though, probably has to come at the other end of the court.

Rothstein compared Cockburn’s performance during a December home win against Minnesota to the college version of Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 NBA playoffs with the Los Angeles Lakers. Cockburn dominated the Gophers to the tune of 33 points (on 80 percent shooting) and 13 rebounds.

“Kofi’s proven he’s going to be an accurate guy around the rim,” Rothstein said. “He’s going to rebound the basketball and give you rim protection on defense, but you saw one of the things that happened in the Loyola game was Porter Moser made it really, really clear right away that he wanted to get Kofi moving and have to be a mobile defender. Obviously, Loyola Chicago and Cameron Krutwig took great advantage of that.

“To stay on the floor, it’s not just about what you’re going to be doing offensively. It’s what you’re going to be doing defensively. Can he continue to improve his ball-screen defense? Can his lateral quickness improve?”

Those questions will be answered as the 2021-22 season progresses. For now, Cockburn’s decision for another year at Illinois should cap what’s been a somewhat tumultuous offseason.

Brad Underwood was able to answer roster losses and coaching staff turnover at every turn. Adam Miller transfers to LSU? Alfonso Plummer heads to Illinois from Utah. All three assistant coaches leave? Chester Frazier, Geoff Alexander and Tim Anderson are the answer.

Cockburn’s return 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.

For now, Underwood can move toward the 2021-22 season knowing he has a returning All-American to anchor his roster.

“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 released shortly after Cockburn’s decision. Underwood, like Cockburn, was also not available otherwise to speak with the media. “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.”

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).

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