CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois sophomore center Kofi Cockburn spoke to media via a Zoom video conference call for the first time since fall classes began on the university campus earlier this month.
The topics of the 45-minute discussion ranged from his decision to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to the Illini, the recent racial and social injustice in the United States leading to protests, spending a few months of the coronavirus pandemic in a quarantine with his family in New York, the Wednesday playoff strike by the NBA players led by the Milwaukee Bucks and the development of his basketball skill set for the upcoming season.
Cockburn declared his intention to investigate the NBA Draft process on April 7 but declined to sign with an agent in order to preserve his eligibility for a potential sophomore season. Ultimately, Cockburn announced earlier this month he would be withdrawing his name from NBA draft consideration to return for his sophomore season with the Illini program.
Cockburn was named the Big Ten Conference’s Freshman of the Year selection by both the media and coaches after averaging 13.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 53.2 percent from the field. The 7-foot, 290-pound center from Queens, N.Y., was an unanimous selection to the coaches' All-Freshman team and was a third-team All-Big Ten pick by the media, while garnering All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades from the coaches. Cockburn was the fourth Illini player in school history to win the league's freshman of the year award, following Cory Bradford in 1999, Brian Cook in 2000 and D.J. Richardson in 2010.