NBA Reportedly Sets Draft Date, Illini Stars Waiting On Combine Workouts

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- While the NBA has reportedly finalized a 2020 draft date, the duo of impactful Illinois draft-eligible prospects are still waiting on a more important date.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday that the NBA is planning on the 2020 draft to be on Oct. 16, at least a few weeks after Division I college basketball programs will likely be allowed to start preseason practices. 

However, the NBA, which is currently trying to finalize its “bubble” plan to play out its 2019-20 season in Walt Disney World in Orlando, continues to stay mum on the idea of whether a draft prospect combine will take place. The NBA draft combine had taken place since 2000 and recently been held in Chicago. The postponement of winter and spring sports due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic immediately put those plans on hold and possibly, in terms of the draft combine, could mean an outright cancelation of the event.

According to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, the NBA is working out planning options for a “target date for a combine” in early-to-mid September. The NCAA usually allows for the start of Division 1 programs to begin college basketball preseason practices in the last week of September.

Illinois, with two of its star players still investigating the draft process, is one of the nation’s premier programs that continues to be in figurative limbo while professional basketball figures out these tipping point dates for its draft.

CBS Sports basketball analyst Jon Rothstein did a report on June 13 suggesting the Illini, which are in the early bracket projection of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, would be one of the nation’s Top 10 programs if Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn were to return for one more year of college.

Dosunmu, who declared for the draft in April, has maintained his position that his intent is to stay in the draft process and not return for this junior season at Illinois. However, Dosunmu has yet to hire an agent and allowing for his eligibility to remain intact if professional basketball doesn’t allow for a combine and he’s not fully assured of getting picked among the 60 selections in an upcoming draft.

“If everything goes the right way and everything gets back on track then, of course, I will be staying in the draft and getting better and working out to be the best player I can be,” Dosunmu said in mid-May during a Zoom video conference with reporters.

Dosunmu was a first-team All-Big Ten selection this past season while leading Illinois to a 21-10 overall record and a top four finish in the league standings. He averaged a team-high 16.6 points per game to go with 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 33.5 minutes per contest. However, mock drafts have Dosunmu pegged at best as a second round option and Vecenie’s latest rankings have the Illini guard at No. 51 overall in the 2021 draft class.

In the same May video conference with media, Dosunmu, who has been seen on social media working out in private basketball gym, remained confident that the COVID-19 pandemic would not outright eliminate a draft combine from taking place.

"There’s going to be a combine. There’s going to be a place where I’m going to be able to show my talents and show everything I can do,” said Dosunmu.

Cockburn actually declared for the draft a few days before Dosunmu’s expected declaration in April.

Cockburn might also need a draft combine to further showcase his very raw but high potential offensive game that would need to stretch beyond working in the lane and an ability to guard the NBA’s classic screen-and-roll offenses at a much higher level.

The NCAA announced, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players will have until 10 days after the NBA draft combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes first, to withdraw from the postponed 2020 NBA draft and retain their eligibility for the following college season.

If both players were to stay in the draft process, Illinois would lose four of its top five scorers from this past season and 51.3 of the minutes played from the 2019-20 campaign.

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