“We’re going to do everything we can to help him reach his dream”

Sports

Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood fully supporting Kofi Cockburn's decision to turn pro

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Kofi Cockburn is on campus working out at the Ubben practice facility but the future of the 7-foot Illinois center remains in question. Cockburn has some big decisions to make in the next few months after declaring for the NBA Draft on Sunday.

Cockburn didn’t specify in his announcement whether he was hiring an agent, turning pro for good or leaving the door open to return to the Illini. The NBA Draft is set for July 29, with the Draft Combine June 21-27.  The deadline for an early entry player to withdraw from the NBA Draft is Monday, July 19 at 5 p.m. ET. The NCAA normally has a withdraw date prior to that but it hasn’t been announced yet. Those dates help put everything in perspective but the uncertainty leaves Illinois head coach Brad Underwood’s roster in flex.

“My approach is no different than it’s always been, we’re going to do everything we can to help him reach his dream,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “I was down on the court with him this morning, it’s all about helping him. We’re working him out trying to get him in the best place he can be as he’s got decisions to make. We’ve got to plan on he’s here and we’ll see how it goes accordingly as time plays out.”

Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds while making 65.4% from the field during his dominant sophomore campaign, becoming the only NCAA player on the season to average 15+ points and 9+ boards on at least 60 percent shooting. He ranked third in the nation with 16 double-doubles and fourth nationally in field goal percentage while leading the NCAA with 78 dunks.

Cockburn is the first center in Illinois history to achieve consensus All-America status, earning a spot on the Wooden Award All-American Team and garnering second-team All-America accolades from the Associated Press, NABC, USBWA, Sporting News, CBS Sports and USA Today.

Cockburn helped lead Illinois to a 24-7 record, including a 16-4 mark in conference play followed by the Big Ten Tournament championship. The Illini earned an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed and set a school record by defeating six top-10 teams during the season. Illinois finished the year at No. 4 in kenpom, the second-highest rating in program history. 

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