CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Only during a coronavirus pandemic can players being officially invited to an event that doesn’t currently exist.
However, welcome to the world of sports in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and Illinois has had its two star players invited to a professional basketball draft combine where a date, location and health protocols have yet to be announced.
And the draft combine announcement may not matter to a player’s college eligibility because the the NCAA previously 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.
IlliniNow/Sports Illustrated has inquired to NCAA spokespeople if the NCAA deadline would be pushed back if the NBA draft combine could happen before the start of fall semester classes across the country later next month.
According to ESPN.com reporter Jonathan Givony, the NBA sent out email invitations to draft-eligible prospects Sunday and Illini guard Ayo Dosunmu sent out a tweet Sunday suggesting he had received one of those invites. Adam Zagoria, a contributing writer/reporter for The New York Times, NJ Advance Media and several newspapers nationwide, reported Monday that Illinois center Kofi Cockburn also received an invitation.
NOTE: Zagoria clarified his previous report in a Wednesday morning tweet by saying Dosunmu had been invited to the draft combine but Cockburn was not one of the players invited
ESPN.com reporter Adrian Wojnarowski reported last month 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.
The NBA draft combine had taken place since 2000 and has recently been held in Chicago. The postponement of winter and spring sports due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic immediately put those plans of a draft combine on hold.
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 Dosunmu and 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 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.
In the sixth version of his mock draft piece for The Athletic, Sam Vecenie projects Dosunmu to be taken in the second round, 50th overall in a 60-player draft, by the Indiana Pacers, However, Vecenie suggested Dosunmu’s best professional decision might be to return to Illinois for his junior season.
“Dosunmu has a very real chance to help himself next season by returning to Illinois and fixing his jump shot, given how good the Illini figure to be with his return,” Vecenie writes in his latest mock draft analysis piece for The Athletic. “I really like the idea of Dosunmu, and he’s known to be a hard worker and strong character kid. I’m just not quite sure he’d be putting himself in the best position by declaring for this draft officially.”
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,
Cockburn actually declared for the draft a few days before Dosunmu’s expected declaration in April.
Cockburn, who was shown on Twitter Monday shooting and making 3-points shots (something he only attempted once during the past 2019-20 season), 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.