(WCIA) — There was a sigh of relief for Illini nation this week, with Kofi Cockburn deciding play at Illinois for his junior year. It seemed like an improbable return for the program, but the Illini will certainly feel the benefits of having the 7-foot all-American the court for another season.
Cockburn has the resume to become a national player of the year candidate, and a two-time All-American. The center chose to come back to the Illini for his junior year, picking them over Kentucky and FSU who had interest in him after he entered the transfer portal.
The Illini are returning three starters and six of its top nine players from last year, including Andre Curbelo, Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams, and Jacob Grandison. The Illini also add in three freshman to the team — two are Top-100 prospects. Add in a healthy Austin Hutcherson, along with grad transfers Alfonso Plummer and Omar Payne, and the Illini are looking pretty stacked this season.
“Omar coming from Florida, and Alfonso coming from Utah, to go along with our three freshman, you see the maturity,” says head coach Brad Underwood. “And I’m excited as heck about our freshman, they all offer a little something different talent wise, but in terms of getting in the gym and working, and diving right in, they both feed into the work part.”