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Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.


Kofi's arrival means backboard adjustments

A perk of my role at News-Gazette Media is covering the team behind the scenes, telling stories away from State Farm Center.

Like the time Malcolm Hill broke a backboard at the practice facility.

It happened on Memorial Day 2016 at Ubben Basketball Complex in Champaign, when Hill was getting in a workout during the break between his junior and senior seasons with the Illini. Hill left Illinois as the program's No. 3 all-time scorer with 1,846 points. But just as notable a number is one. As in the backboard the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder shattered on a side basket at Ubben that day.

That the Illini have welcomed in 7-foot, 290-pound freshman Kofi Cockburn (above, during a visit to the UI and its AD), who makes a living trying to rip the rim off when he dunks, means it was probably a good idea for Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman to go ahead and order an extra standard. Just in case.

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"He's a big dude," Whitman said of the Illini freshman center. "I had the chance to be around him a little bit. Even by Big Ten basketball standards, he's a big man. They reached out to me the other day and suggested that we might want to go ahead and order a new standard for the backboard to have it in the wings in case one of the standards we have doesn't make it through the summer. So we went ahead and made that order. I think it'd be kind of cool if we had to use it."

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).