Illinois Basketball: Kofi Cockburn on display at the NBA Combine

Jun 24, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; A detail shot of the new NBA basketball ball during the NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena.Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; A detail shot of the new NBA basketball ball during the NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena.Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

Kofi Cockburn was one of the most legendary big men to ever come through the Illinois basketball program.

Career averages of 17.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game helped propel Kofi to numerous accolades while with the Illini. He would start his career off being the 2019-20 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and end his career being a two-time consensus All-American.

Illinois missed the NCAA tournament in the six seasons prior to Kofi arriving in Champaign. In the three years with the big man, the program qualified for the postseason and would have played in all three tournaments if it wasn’t for a worldwide pandemic.

The legacy with the Illini has been sealed. Kofi is arguably the best big man in program history and one of the best players to ever put on an Illinois jersey. He will have his number hoisted up into the rafters.

Kofi is now onto the next step of his career. He is trying to live out a dream of making and sticking in the NBA.

There are many doubters when it comes to Illinois basketball legend Kofi Cockburn making the NBA.

Every year Kofi has been with the Illinois basketball team, he has declared for the NBA Draft. For the first two seasons, this was just for him to test the waters and to see where he needed to improve. This time around was different, though. Kofi decided to stay in the draft process and hire an agent.

The critics of Kofi flared up when he announced he wasn’t coming back to Illinois. The chatter from the critics is that he needed to come back to Illinois to work on his speed or to improve his shot. Other critics say that he isn’t agile enough or put some other deficiency on his abilities.

My take is Kofi is right where he needs to be. He doesn’t need to come back where he has school to take up his time. With him staying in the NBA Draft, this gives Kofi the opportunity to strictly work on his game. He can improve where he needs to improve to show NBA scouts that he is draft-worthy.

Kofi is currently going through the draft process. He is at the NBA Combine where he gets to show off his agility and shooting abilities.

When Kofi was at Illinois, I never thought his agility was going to be a huge issue in the NBA. Yes, he could struggle at times with teams that space the floor with three-point shooters, but there are plenty of big men in the NBA who can move well but are mainly used for rebounding and size in the paint. This video by James Boyd shows some of Kofi’s athletic ability.

The biggest worry I did have with Kofi is his ability to shoot the basketball. In Brad Underwood’s system, there wasn’t much need for Kofi to develop his shot outside of a few feet. That is one reason I think going through the NBA process is good for Kofi’s development, but I also think he could surprise people with his ability to learn how to shoot quickly.

This video By Adam Zagoria shows Kofi shooting from nearly college basketball three-point range. Some of the comments are hard on him, but I actually liked this video. It shows me that Kofi is developing his shot quickly.

The release and stroke of Kofi’s shot are completely different than what I saw at Illinois. In just a matter of months, his shot looks so much better and it looks like he is actually a shooter. I don’t look at the results of the shot too much, although he did make a few, but his stroke is what is getting my attention. He looks like a shooter, and that is a big jump from the last time we saw the kid play basketball.

People have to remember, Kofi didn’t start playing basketball until just a few years before he got to Illinois. It is not like he picked up a basketball at the age of three and caught onto the game. He is still developing by the day, and in my eyes, his development is going well.

Next. Top 5 Illini players to ever wear the No. 1. dark