LIVE! Illinois tips off season against Jackson State without Curbelo, Cockburn, Frazier or Hutcherson

Illini Basketball

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois basketball opens up its season Tuesday night at State Farm Center hosting Jackson State without several of its best players. Andre Curbelo is in concussion protocol and will not suit up, along with Kofi Cockburn (NCAA suspension), Trent Frazier (shoulder) and Austin Hutcherson (tailbone) will also not play.

The 11th-ranked Illini are looking to build off a historic season that ended in disappointment and an early second round exit in the NCAA tournament with a loss to Loyola. Illinois went 24-7 overall and 16-4 in the Big Ten Conference, won the league tournament and received a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. With key returners back, including Kofi Cockburn (out the first three games serving an NCAA suspension), Andre Curbelo, Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams, the Illini are anxious to get back on the court.

“I think we’re thirsty, I think we’re a team that is not happy,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said on Monday. “I don’t think we’re happy with the way last season ended, I think we want more, I think I want more. There’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic, that doesn’t guarantee any wins, but we’re very very thirsty. That’s one of the terms I’m using, we gotta just keep wanting more.”

The Illini will be without First Team Preseason All-American Kofi Cockburn the first three games after he was suspended by the NCAA for selling team issued gear on The Players Trunk over the summer. The 7-foot Jamaican thought he was turning pro, and therefore sold his gear. After announcing he was going into the transfer portal, then deciding to return to Champaign, Cockburn was in violation of NCAA rules, despite name, image and likeness legislation passing in Illinois July 1.

“It means I’m going to have to step up,” Illinois sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins said about Kofi having to sit out. “More guys are going to have to step up. I’m going to be out there for a long time, and just be thrown in different positions and see how well I handle that I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for me. People forget that I’m 6-10, 6-11, so I have length, I’m able to block shots, I’ll be able to rebound.”

Florida transfer Omar Payne will join Hawkins in the front court as two guys who will have to carry the load with Cockburn on the bench. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. against Jackson State in a game that can be seen on Big Ten Network.

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