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Kofi Cockburn Returning to Illinois After Considering Kentucky, FSU Transfers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 21: Kofi Cockburn #21 of the Illinois Fighting Illini reacts to a basket against the Loyola Chicago Ramblers during the first half in the second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Kofi Cockburn announced Friday he's returning to Illinois after entering the transfer portal ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Cockburn told Joe Tipton of On3Sports about his decision to stay with the Illini after considering a move to Kentucky or Florida State. 

The 7'0" center averaged 15.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in his two years with the Fighting Illini. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2020 and a consensus second-team All-American as a sophomore in 2020-21.

His brief transfer saga comes after the NCAA allowed athletes to move once without having to sit out a season to regain their eligibility. That opened the floodgates for players around the country to change schools.

ESPN's Jeff Borzello reported July 1 that Cockburn had entered the portal.

The 21-year-old told Jonathan Givony of ESPN five days later that he would be staying in college because he "wasn't happy with the input I was getting from NBA teams" and wanted to raise his NBA draft profile.

The Athletic's Sam Vecenie wasn't very high on his value at the next level right now:

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With the NBA on hold, Cockburn was noncommittal about his next steps from there.

"I'm pretty much open," he said to Givony. "There's a possibility I return to Illinois and a possibility I don't. I want to make a quick decision as soon as possible. I don't want to go back and forth. I'm going to take some visits, but I'm not sure where.

Cockburn explained that Orlando Antigua's move to the Kentucky staff was one of his considerations because Antigua had originally helped recruit him to Illinois.

Having already lost Antigua and assistant coach Chin Coleman, Illinois head coach Brad Underwood would've had a truly terrible offseason if Cockburn followed them out the door.

Underwood has to replace leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu from a team that went 23-6 in the regular season and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

But Cockburn leads a group of returning stars that includes Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo. Illinois also signed 4-star recruits Luke Goode, RJ Melendez and Brandin Podziemski and added former Florida forward Omar Payne.

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