MOUTH OF WILSON, Va. (WCIA) — It’s not hard to find Kofi Cockburn on the court. At 7-foot, 295-pounds, he sticks out.
“I look at myself as a really skilled big man, I’m really strong physically,” Cockburn said.
And even though a pickup game may not be the best way to evaluate a player, one thing is clear after watching the 4-star, Top 50 recruit, he likes to dunk. Cockburn started playing basketball when he was 8 years old but the Jamaica native didn’t make a serious commitment to the game until he was presented with an opportunity to come to the United States four years ago.
“Jamaica basketball and US basketball is totally different. Just coming here to a system where I have to play my role and learn plays, it was really different for me,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot of room to grow. Even at the next level, college basketball is really different than high school basketball. It’s a lot of plays, you have to get smarter and my brother always told me, basketball is 98 percent mental and two percent physical and I never realized it until I came here to Oak Hill.”
Cockburn put up 13 points and 10 rebounds per game this season for the prep school powerhouse, playing alongside some of the best recruits in the country. Kofi had more than 30 offers but decided Illinois was his best fit, even after seeing the team lose to Florida Atlantic on his official visit in December.
“The way I saw it, they really played hard. They have heart and they battle and I saw that they want to win. I also saw that there is a great need for a big. Giorgi, he’s a great player. He’s actually 6’8, he’s not really a center, he’s a power forward. So me realizing that this school really needs a big man,” Cockburn said. “Most schools want you, cause they feel like you’re good but I feel like Illinois really needed me and I feel like I can come in, work hard, get an opportunity to play and I’m trying to win a national championship.”
The history at Oak Hill includes some of the best names in the game. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony both played in the same gym and the list of guys who went on to play in the NBA runs several dozen deep. A lot of those guys have come back and put their jersey on the wall and that’s what Cockburn is hoping to do as well.
“Truthfully, I want to be a one and done player,” he explained. “This is what my brother, Coach Antingua keep telling me. Come in not worrying about being a one and done. Come in and work hard, play your best at all times, give 100 percent and everything is going to come in place. Like me going there, I’m just working on being better, helping as much as I can and being the best person and player I can be.”
Regardless of how many years he plays for Illinois, just having a guy on the NBA radar goes a long way. Meyers Leonard is currently the only former Illini playing in the league.