Kofi Cockburn has officially played his first minutes of basketball with an NBA squad.
On Tuesday night, the Salt Lake City stop of the NBA Summer League tipped off with two games featuring some of the biggest up-and-coming stars. One of the most fascinating matchups to watch was former Illinois basketball legend Kofi Cockburn against the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Chet Holmgren.
Kofi ended up winning the opening tip, but that was about the most success he had against Holmgren. There was one instance where Kofi ended up using his size in the paint and backed Holmgren down. That play would result in a sweet little hook shot by the former Illini big man for two points.
Beyond that shot, I think it was pretty obvious that Holmgren had the better night. He would finish with 23 points, seven rebounds, six blocks, and four assists. He was everything you would hope a No. 2 pick would be.
I wasn’t disappointed by Kofi’s night by any means, though. He would finish with five points and seven rebounds in 17:35 of action. He also had two turnovers and two fouls on the night.
Kofi Cockburn needs to turn the aggression up in the NBA Summer League.
It was fun seeing Kofi back on the basketball court, although it was weird seeing him in a different jersey. If I had to give him a grade for his first appearance on an NBA court, I would probably give him a C.
I think Kofi has good court awareness. He comes out and sets screens for his guards, and he rolls to the basket well. When a shot is put up, his ability to know where the ball is going off the rim enables him to pull down rebounds as well.
When activated, Kofi’s aggression is a huge advantage for him. I keep coming back to that one play where he got the ball a little too far outside of the paint but was able to back Holmgren down for an easy bucket. That is what we need to see more often.
I think an underrated part of Kofi’s game is his defense. A big issue for bigger players – like Rudy Gobert – is that they can’t guard well on the perimeter. I think Kofi does a decent job with this given his size. He would close out with his hand up. He stayed in front of Holmgren when he would try to drive. Kofi’s footwork was impeccable.
The speed of Kofi – especially to start the game – was like he was playing a couple of notches slower than the rest of the players on the court. He wasn’t moving well up and down the court. Kofi seemed pretty winded, and that was probably a big reason he only played 17:35.
Kofi doesn’t show aggression frequently enough. Pound-for-pound, he was the biggest player out on the court. You have the physical gifts we have rarely ever seen in the NBA. Use those gifts and dominate in the paint. When you go up for a bucket, dunk the ball. Don’t go up weak. That was an issue at Illinois, and it seemed to be an issue on Tuesday night.
The final point I want to express is I want Kofi to be more vocal. I know he has it in him to be an alpha on that basketball court. He can be a vocal leader. My hope is that the first game Kofi played on Tuesday was just to knock some rust off. He has the ability to be a great player, I know this. I watched it at Illinois. He just needs to show the rest of the world.