CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Kofi Cockburn is turning pro and ending his college career. The Illinois center announced Wednesday morning his time as an Illini is over, he will enter the NBA Draft and hire an agent.
Cockburn had until Sunday to make a decision about his future. If he entered his name into the NBA Draft for a third time, he could no longer return to school. Despite an opportunity to make money through name, image and likeness legislation that passed last summer, Cockburn decided it was best to move on.
“This journey has been a very special one,” Cockburn said on his social media post. “Never did I ever imagine being a part of something so fun and extraordinary. So many people to thank but I don’t know where to start, so many wonderful memories and bonds that I will cherish for a lifetime. I would like to thank my coaches, mentors, teammates and family for supporting me throughout this journey and offering unconditional love. I would also like to thank Illini Nation for welcoming me with open arms and bringing that electrifying energy every game. Last but not least, I would like to thank God for blessing me with amazing opportunities and most importantly for giving me the chance to experience something so wonderful. To play in the NBA has been a longtime dream of mine and I truly think it’s time for me to take that next step, with that being said I will be putting my name in the 2022 NBA Draft and signing with an agent.”
Cockburn leaves Illinois as one of the program’s all-time great players, finishing with the school’s career double-double record at 45. The 7-foot center has scored 1,546 points and grabbed 861 rebounds, the most among three-year players in Illini history. If he had returned for a senior season, he was well within reach of breaking both the scoring and rebounding records.
As a junior, Cockburn was the only player in the NCAA to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, named a consensus first team All-American. Cockburn led Illinois to a share of the regular season Big Ten championship, with the team finishing 23-10 after a second round loss in the NCAA tournament.