Cockburn was one of the stars of Illinois basketball, a one-seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. After winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2019-20, he averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season. He was a First-team All-Big Ten performer, and a consensus second-team All-American.
He had entered his name into the 2021 NBA Draft, but has since withdrawn it in favor of a junior college season. Illinois remains an option, and Fighting Illini fans desperately hope he returns for another season after contemplating a move. The other finalists: Kentucky, which he previously called a “serious option,” and Florida State.
It doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait too long to find out. Cockburn previously tweeted that his decision will come this Friday, July 16.
— Kofi Cockburn (@kxng_alpha) July 14, 2021
Right now, only Cockburn knows where he’ll end up. There is plenty of reason to fear Kentucky, if you’re an Illinois fan.
He told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony that former Illinois assistant Orlando Antigua was “the reason” he went to Illinois, and that his departure, along with that of Chin Coleman, play a big part in his decision to explore his options.
Antigua was an assistant under John Calipari at Memphis and Kentucky from 2008-14, before landing the head coaching job at South Florida. After being let go, he joined Brad Underwood’s staff from 2017-21, but left to reunite with Calipari this offseason.
“Kentucky? It’s a serious option. Antigua is my guy. I’m going to consider them, but there [are] a lot of schools. I wasn’t really focused on that while I was in the NBA draft. Now I can take my time and evaluate it better.”
Kentucky is always in the national conversation, but adding an All-American center talent like Kofi Cockburn would be a giant lift to Calipari’s program.