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- Scouting report: Kofi Cockburn is an absolute load on the inside at 7-foot, 290 pounds. He is exceptionally strong and he owns his space in the paint. When he gets the ball on the block, he is hard to stop due to his physicality and his ability to finish with either hand. Cockburn likes to go to his right hook. He can also drop-step and pin his defender on his outside hip. And while he didn’t get many opportunities to show it in his senior season at Oak Hill Academy, he is capable of knocking down the 15-foot jumper. He’s also capable of tearing the rim off when he gets the ball deep on a dish off guard penetration or when he corrals an offensive board. Cockburn’s rebounding ability really stands out. He was elite in that area against EYBL competition, which features many of the top bigs in the country. When he wants a ball that’s in his area, he usually gets it. The next step for him is increasing his mobility, his conditioning and his motor to cover more ground on the glass and defensively. Laterally, he moves like you’d expect most players at his size to move. But when he’s going north and south, he can get up and down pretty well with that frame. It’s all about how long he can sustain that before fatigue sets in, and a high D-1 strength & conditioning program with an increased focus on nutrition should enable him to play harder for longer. But make no mistake... He's not a bad athlete. This is a player who threw down a windmill in transition at Peach Jam last summer.
- First-year impact: Is Cockburn capable of being Illinois’ starting five-man alongside the likes of Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier? Yeah, there’s no doubt. If the Illini are able to add TJ Holyfield, some decisions will need to be made on how the frontcourt rotation will work. Either way, you’re probably looking at a freshman center who can give you 20 to 25 minutes per game. The Illini will have a number of capable scorers, so they won’t need Cockburn to put up huge point totals. But Brad Underwood showed his commitment to get the ball inside the past season, and when you consider the attention that Dosunmu, Frazier, Bezhanishvili and Andres Feliz will attract, Cockburn should get quite a few one-on-one opportunities in the paint. And it’s safe to count on him to get a couple buckets a game off of putbacks. It doesn’t seem to be a stretch to expect him to average around 10 points and six rebounds per game in his debut season.
- Ceiling: Clearly, this will depend on how long Cockburn elects to stay at Illinois before making the jump to the NBA. And we’ve seen plenty of players leave before they’re entirely ‘ready’. But if he stays two years, Cockburn can be one of the premier bigs in the Big Ten, in the conversation for all-league honors and on his way to an NBA Draft spot. That’s assuming that Orlando Antigua and Adam Fletcher can really maximize the potential he possesses, and that’s also on Cockburn to respond well when he gets pushed by the Illini coaching staff. The good news is that Cockburn likes the intensity and toughness that this program is about. If Illinois can get him to stick around for when he’s an upperclassman, he could mold himself in a sure-fire first-round pick and be a nationally-feared center in college basketball.
- Reminds me of: Bruno Fernando, Nick Ward, Kaleb Wesson, Diamond Stone… The kind of big, physical force on the inside that Illinois hasn’t had an answer for in quite some time. I’ve liked to compare Cockburn to Fernando throughout his recruitment when taking a look at his potential impact. The difference is that Fernando is more athletic and explosive, which is why he is in line to be an NBA lottery pick after his sophomore season. Cockburn might not be able to reach those heights, given the style of the modern NBA. That being said, can he give Illinois 10 points and 6.5 rebounds in around 22 minutes per game as a freshman — just as Fernando did at Maryland? Seems like a good bar. And with a return, he could further transform his body and become a dominant, double-double type of big man as a sophomore before making the jump to the next level... Just like Fernando.
- Quote: “They see me coming in, becoming a starter, becoming a leader. I’m trying to win a national championship. Get better. My ultimate goal is to be a pro, and they feel like they can help me develop and get better to be a pro.”
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