Cockburn Illinois
All-American center Kofi Cockburn will return to Illinois next season. The 7-foot center averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds last year. (Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, Associated Press)

All-American Center Kofi Cockburn Returning to Illinois

All-American center Kofi Cockburn will be returning to Illinois for his junior season, per Joe Tipton and On3sports.

After what was an interesting string of events that saw Cockburn withdraw from the NBA draft process and announce his name in the transfer portal, he will once again be back in Champaign for another season.

Cockburn’s return means that coach Brad Underwood will have three starters back from last year’s squad. The second team All-American averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds last season, helping lead the Illini to a Big Ten tournament championship and No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Though the departures of Ayo Dosunmu (NBA) and Adam Miller (LSU) sting, the Fighting Illini will be led by sophomore Andre Curbelo who really came into his own towards the end of last season. Curbelo, who averaged 9.1 points and 4.2 assists last season, will step into his own as the catalyst for the Illini offense. A pick-and-roll game between he and Cockburn will likely be a prominent feature among Illinois’ possessions.

Kentucky was long in the running for the 7-foot center, especially after snagging former Illini assistant coaches Chin Coleman and Orlando Antigua. However, a report on Wednesday from The Athletic affirmed that Cockburn would not be joining the loaded Wildcat frontcourt. The same report rumored a possible move to Tallahassee where he would’ve joined Florida State and Leonard Hamilton. Instead, the junior will remain in the Big Ten, the clear frontrunner for Player of the Year, and hoping to prove why NBA teams should take a chance on him next year.

With Cockburn’s return, Illinois is a top 25 team and can expect to challenge, or at least compete, in what is once again a difficult Big Ten.

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