Kentucky basketball: Kofi Cockburn huge focus in Wildcat spotlight

Kofi Cockburn of the Illinois Fighting Illini (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Kofi Cockburn of the Illinois Fighting Illini (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The already loaded and largely talented Kentucky basketball roster appears to have another big target in the immediate spotlight in big man Kofi Cockburn.

Cockburn, who stands 7-foot tall and 285-pounds, is a beast in the paint, especially with his 7-foot-6 inch wingspan. After last season at Illinois, he put his name into the NBA draft but withdrew it last week after not appearing to like his draft projections.

The website has him listed as the No. 7 overall center in this year’s draft behind Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey.

So after the mass exodus of transfers and coaches from the Illini program could it be that Cockburn will follow his former coaches Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman to Lexington?  That is certainly a real possibility.

Kofi Cockburn tight with Kentucky basketball coach Orlando Antigua

Cockburn had an impressive year where he averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds due in part to  65.4 percent shooting from the floor. That helped his team to an NCAA No 1 tournament seed but they lost to Loyola of Chicago 71-58 in the second round.

But what drew him originally to Illinois was Antigua and now that the former Wildcat coach is once again on John Calipari‘s staff in Lexington that would seem to indicate Kentucky to be a front runner for the schools he can immediately transfer to and eligible to play right away.

Cockburn told ESPN that he isn’t shy about his recruitment and future.

"“He’s the reason I went to Illinois. When he left along with Chin Coleman, I decided to go in the portal to leave my options open. Kentucky? It’s a serious option. Antigua is my guy. I’m going to consider them, but there a lot of schools. I wasn’t really focused on that while I was in the NBA draft. Now I can take my time and evaluate it better.”"

He started all 31 games last season scored 558 points, grabbed 293 rebounds (188 defensive, 105 offensive), and blocked 40 shots. He hasd16 double-double games including 33 points and 13 rebounds against Minnesota.

Then against Indiana, he dropped 15 points and 15 boards at home, and then 16 points and 10 rebounds in Bloomington.

He did turn it over 54 times and struggles mightily at the foul line hitting just .553 percent.

But in the end, he was a Second-Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten.

However,  what he will bring to any team including the Wildcats would be the sheer brute size with an old-school basketball style. Taking up lots of space in the lane and using his body to gain position and keep opponents away from the basket.

Developing big men is Calipari’s forte and Cockburn already brings all the tools that Cal would just have to fine-tune and send him to the NBA.

It also doesn’t hurt that he lists former Wildcat and NBA star DeMarcus Cousins as one of his favorite athletes along with Argentinian soccer great Lionel Messi. We all know what Cal did for Boogie while he was in Lexington and what that did for his future.

Of course, his build would also interest Mark Stoops, but that won’t happen. Track, soccer and basketball are his true loves.

The recruitment is wide open right now but Cockburn doesn’t want to wait long to decide. If he does indeed head to Lexington he and Oscar Tshiebwe and Lance Ware under the basketball would be some oversized loads to contend with.

Then again that is something Big Blue fans have been clamoring for a while.

Stay tuned because the daily transfer portal drama never ends.