Kofi Cockburn celebrates Michigan

Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn (21) celebrates a second-half basket against Michigan at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.

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Of all the games on the 2021-22 schedule, these five shouldn't be missed:


Consider this a “look how far he’s come” game. Cockburn struggled in the desert as a freshman, putting up nine points on 3 of 7 shooting against Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji and Chase Jeter. Unless Azuolas Tubelis steps up his game defensively, the Wildcats likely won’t have the answer this time around in the return game.


A dominant performance from Cockburn could be a Braggin’ Rights difference maker and return the trophy to Champaign for the first time since 2017. A win in the border rivalry — something that eluded Ayo Dosunmu in his career — is one of the few open spots on Cockburn’s otherwise stacked résumé.


So, Illinois isn’t guaranteed a game against Arkansas at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo., the week of Thanksgiving. Here’s hoping it happens if only to provide Cockburn with another intriguing matchup. The Illini actually recruited the Razorbacks’ Jaylin Williams, and he could be due for a breakout sophomore season.


Cockburn and Michigan center Hunter Dickinson basically neutralized each other for most of last season’s game in Ann Arbor, Mich., but the Illinois big man ultimately had the upper hand with 12 points and seven rebounds to Dickinson’s six points and five boards. The rematch will be a must see showdown.


The Boilermakers got their own boost when Trevion Williams withdrew from the NBA draft for one more season in West Lafayette, Ind. With Iowa’s Luka Garza gone, the Big Ten big man hierarchy starts with Cockburn, Williams and Dickinson. It was a fairly even matchup for the former two last season.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

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

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