Kofi Cockburn ends his career in college basketball by announcing he’ll be turning professional and signing with an agent.
By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer
(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)
CHAMPAIGN -- Kofi Cockburn has played his final game at the University of Illinois.
Unlike last offseason when he declared for the NBA Draft but eventually returned to college basketball, Cockburn, a two-time consensus First Team All-American, announced on social media Wednesday morning that he’ll be signing with an agent and thus, ending his three-year run with the Illini program.
The 7-foot, 290-pound center ends his time at Illinois as 12th most prolific scorer in school history with 1,546 career points and third most productive player on the glass with 861 rebounds.
"This journey has been a very special one. Never did I ever imagine being a part of something so fun and extraordinary. So many people to thank but I don't know where to start, so many wonderful memories and bonds that I will cherish for a lifetime. I would like to thank my coaches, mentors, teammates and family for supporting me throughout this journey and offering unconditional love. I would also like to thank Illini Nation for welcoming me with open arms and bringing that electrifying energy every game.
Last but not least, I would like to thank God for blessing me with amazing opportunities and most importantly for giving me the chance to experience something so wonderful,” Cockburn wrote in a statement on social media released Wednesday morning. “To play in the NBA has been a dream of mine, and I truly think it's time for me to take that next step. With that being said, I will be putting my name in the 2022 NBA Draft and signing with an agent. King out.”
basketball analysis Brad Sturdy confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cockburn would be declaring his intention to leave Illinois and turn professional. Sources close to the Illinois basketball program confirmed to Sturdy Tuesday afternoon that Cockburn will now travel to Los Angeles to begin privately working out in preparation for the NBA Draft combine and private workouts with franchises this summer before the 2022 NBA Draft.
Cockburn, who will likely see his jersey raised to the rafters at State Farm Center, earned several honors in his three-year career with the Illini including becoming just the second player in school history to become a two-time All-America selection, joining Dee Brown. He leaves Illinois with the most career double-double games (45) in school history. During last year’s 2021-22 season, Cockburn was the only player in the nation averaging at least 20 points (21.1 ppg) and 10 rebounds (10.6 rpg) per game and the only player ranked in the top 20 nationally in both scoring (12th) and rebounding (eighth). The Jamaican native was the first high-major player since 2018, and first Big Ten Conference player since 2004, to average at least 21 points and 10 rebounds.
If Cockburn had elected to play a fourth season at Illinois, he was on pace to overtake Deon Thomas’ record as the school’s all-time leading scorer of 2,129 points and James Augustine’s career rebound record of 1,023 rebounds in this upcoming 2022-23 season.
Because the NBA game has moved away from the dominant centers in the post, Cockburn’s professional future is considered cloudy. Sam Venecie of The Athletic has the Illini big man rated No. 66 in his latest prospect board for the 2022 NBA Draft and the draft, which will take place in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on June 23, consists of just 58 selections. ESPN.com
draft analysis Jonathan Givony had Cockburn going undrafted his latest mock published late last month following the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Cockburn’s decision means Illinois will need to replace four starters from the final game of its last season’s Big Ten Conference regular season championship squad and will likely lose consistent starting wing Jacob Grandison as well.
Now that Cockburn’s decision is final, Illinois will move aggressively toward several options in the transfer portal and continue the offseason development of Baylor mid-season transfer Dain Dainja.