KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WCIA) — Illinois basketball comes to Kansas City and the T-Mobile Center looking for a reset, and they get that in a big way with Kofi Cockburn ready to make his season debut.
The center is returning from a three-game suspension for selling his team issued gear over the Summer, just a month before Name, Image, and Likeness legislation was passed. The Illini could have certainly used Cockburn in a loss at Marquette. The preseason All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year brings a whole new dynamic to the orange and blue on both sides of the ball.
He has been working out and practicing with the team throughout his suspension, but now he gets to finally suit up on gameday. Something the junior says he cannot wait to do Monday night.
“They did some really great things without me and that gave me a lot of joy, a lot of happiness but on the flip side, I wasn’t able to be out there with them,” says Cockburn. “Three games is a long time when you haven’t missed a game in two years so a lot of mixed emotions, mixed feelings about it.”
“There’s no doubt he’s going to be amped up and excited and Kofi gives you a breath of confidence, an air about him,” says head coach Brad Underwood. “He’s been terrific in practice, dominant. I think he’s excited to go out and show everybody that he’s worthy of a lot of the preseason hype.”
Illinois’ first game at the Hall of Fame Classis is against Cincinnati. The Bearcats are 4-0 with a quality win over Georgia. The winner faces either Bruce Weber’s Kansas State or Arkansas on Tuesday in the Championship Game.