Kofi Cockburn Leaves Illinois, Enters NBA Draft to Stay

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Illinois center Kofi Cockburn, a consensus first-team All-American, announced two hours ago on social media that he will enter the NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility. The 7-footer’s 7-4 wingspan, 9-3 standing reach and 285-pound frame make him a prospect for teams looking for a true, old school low post player. His 341 points scored “back to the basket” ranked second in the nation.

However, this doesn’t mean he’s a bonafide NBA Draft prospect by any means. We’ve covered his draft stock in detail already here, here and here.

Cockburn is actually a dominant NBA Center born 20-25 years too late. If this was Shaq’s draft class, Kofi would be a blue chip prospect. In present day, he’s just not a NBA player, because his passing skills are lacking and he can’t defend a ball screen effectively. As Porter Moser, Drew Valentine and Loyola showed us, he can’t pass out of a double team well at all. Then you have his foul shooting, which is also very Shaqlike.

Cockburn could still be a legit NBA player someday down the road, albeit via circuitous route. Nothing wrong with that at all- just look at Malcolm Hill. In the mean time, he could go overseas and make a ton of money. Not that NBA mock drafts are gospel or anything, but you won’t find the name Kofi Cockburn anywhere, in any of them, and that says something.

That said, this move, which was totally expected, is the best for both him and Illini basketball. They’ve pretty much done all they can do, and will do with Kofiball. Also, Cockburn entered the NBA draft twice in 2020 and 2021 to test the waters, and is not allowed to withdraw a third time, according to NBA rules, and thus his eligibility has been exhausted.

As the only player in college hoops to average over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game this past season, he led the Illini to a 23-10 record and a Big Ten championship, which they shared with the Badgers. It was the first time the Illini won regular-season conference title since 2005. In 2021, they won the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since ’05. Cockburn was a huge part of making Illini hoops relevant again, after a long period of darkness.

So no matter what happens with his pro career, you can never take that away from him.

The NBA draft will be June 23 in Brooklyn, New York.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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