With Ayo Dosunmu Returning, Illini Could be Top 10 if Kofi Cockburn Also Returns


(UPDATE: Aug 1, 2020- Kofi Cockburn announced he was returning to school just a few hours after this was written and posted)

Ayo Dosnumo, the Illinois Fighting Illini’s best player, announced late last night that he’s returning to school for his junior season. Some saw this as a surprising move, but those are people who aren’t paying close enough attention. Ayo made a smart decision, one that benefits both him and the program.

His NBA Draft stock just isn’t really high enough now for him to bolt, but if continues his development trajectory this season, he could be a lottery pick next in 2021. That is provided of course, we actually have a college basketball season in 2020-21.

As it stands right now, given how terrible this country is “handling” the coronavirus pandemic, we’ll be lucky if we get a conference only version of a season come early 2021.

When Mr. Why Not Me announced his return to Champaign on social media Friday night he made known his very lofty ambitions. “First I need that national championship,” he said. The 6-5 Morgan Park, Chicago product will be joined in the back court by Trent Frazier, Austin Hutcherson, Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller.

That’s a guard group which is absolutely loaded, and the potential is definitely there for Ayo Dosunmu to be Big Ten Player of the Year and an All-American.

A lot of this depends on the NBA Draft decisions of Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman and Iowa’s Luka Garza (who announces at 12:15 Sunday, the fact that he’s doing his announcement through the school makes it seem very likely he is staying), but if all goes the Illini way, they could be the favorite to win the league.

That is provided of course that center Kofi Cockburn returns for his sophomore season. His draft stock is significantly lower than Dosnumu’s so there is absolutely no reason for him to leave; especially now that Dosunmu is returning. The duo should comprise the best inside-outside combination in the league, and the most prolific that Illini basketball has seen in a generation.

Cockburn had a NBA body the minute he stepped on campus, but he has a ways to go regarding skill set. That’s to be expected, given how the Jamaican only started playing the game late in life. He was also smart to test the NBA waters this off-season and get some important feedback. So again the sky is the limit for Dosunmu and the Illini, but he’ll need Cockburn with him in order to try and reach that stratosphere.

And to even have a chance, we need to try and contain this pandemic.

It’s likely a second coronavirus wave could come back in the fall, and some believe it could be even worse than the first wave, which we’re still not even through yet. There is no reason to believe that a vaccine can be approved, mass manufactured and widely available by basketball season.

Practice starts a little over two months from now, the season in three. So what can you do? How can you help? Do you want to see Ayo Dosunmu and this Illini team?

Well, wear a mask, stay home when you can, socially distance when you have to be near other people. Wash your hands, and most importantly, avoid junk science and conspiracy theorists. Wearing a mask is not a political statement, it’s not an “agree to disagree” opinion.

It works, it’s science, and it’s like gravity. Even if you don’t believe in it, gravity believes in you and you will fall. Now it’s very important that the media finally wakes up and gets a clue here. They have to stop platforming anti-maskers, and abolish their presentation of them as having a “point of view.” They need to stop framing this as a “debate.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly contributes to WGN TVSports IllustratedChicago Now and SB Nation.

You can follow Banks, a former writer for Chicago Tribune.comon Twitter and his cat on Instagram.


  1. “Could be” top 10? I think people are actually underselling how good this team will be (if there’s a season and if Kofi also announces his return today). This is easily one of the national championship favorites. I don’t know of another team in the country that combines as much returning top-end talent, depth, and incoming talent.

    This is easily a top 5 team and the Big Ten favorite.

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