Kofi Cockburn Still Needs Another Year Before Making NBA Jump


On the court, Illinois sophomore center Kofi Cockburn is a brute force low post scorer with nimble feet. Off the court he’s a gentle giant with a fun sense of humor.

He’s made big strides this season and should be a tour de force come March. If you need some Sport Betting Tips for March Madness, it’s always good to go with a team that has an overwhelming presence on the low block. When you get into the one and done zeitgeist of the NCAA Tournament, every possession matters, and you need a dominant player down low in order to maximize each half court set.

Cockburn is a double doubles machine, as he’s second in all of division one ball with 15 on the year so far. He’s averaging double figure points (17.6) and rebounds (10.3) to go along with 68% FG.

He is on pace to become the first Illini player since Nick Weatherspoon in 1973 (25.0 ppg, 12.3 rpg) to average a double-double for an entire season. He’s basically college hoops Shaq right now as he’s 7’0, 285 with a 7’6″ wingspan. Like Shaquille O’Neal he rattles the rim with his dunks, but also with his foul shooting.

Yes, it’s foul, just like Shaq, as he’s clocking in on just 58% from the charity stripe right now. Opposing teams can opt for the hack-a-Kofi gameplan, but it may not take them too far, as the Illini are still in the mix for a NCAA Tournament #1 seed.

Between Kofi and Ayo Dosunmu, a national player of the year front-runner, the Illini have the best inside-outside pairing in the nation.

Dosunmu discussed just how how much Kofi Cockburn has developed on the defensive end this season, and all the work he’s done to get there.

“He’s done a good job of getting his feet quicker,” he said. “Jump rope, doing a lot of running, a lot of lateral agility things, have helped him drastically in pick-and-roll, and he’s worked on this body slimmed down.”

Indeed dropping weight was a key goal for Cockburn this season and offseason. Listed at 285 now, he was reportedly north of 300 before.

His coach, Brad Underwood, said he’s playing like an All-American right now.

“He’s top 10 in efficiency,” said Underwood. “He’s a guy who hasn’t always been, but is becoming dominant, and doing what it takes to become that.”

He then discussed the sort of lost off-season that Cockburn had while home in New York on lockdown/quarantine due to the pandemic.

“No place was hit (by COVID-19) worse than New York,” he continued. “And he didn’t have a gym, a weight room, really lost an offseason in terms of the some the things we wanted to work with him on, but he’s made up for that since he’s been back.

“It’s a tribute to our coaches and to him to get him where’s he at in a quick amount of time.”

All that said, like Dosunmu, the NBA Draft stock reports don’t really reflect who he is and what he brings to the table. NBA Draft Room has him #46 overall in their NBA mock draft while NBA Draft.net has him slotted #41. That’s really about it, when it comes to all the mocks out there on the interwebs.

Obviously, mock drafts are not the end all be all, and one shouldn’t take them too seriously, but they are a guide. They’re a decent overarching generalization, and since Kofi went through the exploratory process this past offseason and then came back, it’s clear that he still needs to work on some things.

He’s not ready yet, and that’s very understandable, given how he’s only been playing the sport of basketball for about five years. The Kingston, Jamaica native, who now lives in NYC, still has some rawness to him, and only time/experience will alleviate that.

It’s quite likely Dosunumu leaves for good after this season, having made such a leap this campaign.

Kofi Cockburn might do the same his junior year, in 2021-22. The career arc he’s on right now would certainly indicate such a trajectory.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, 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,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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