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 on Brad Underwood’s team.
It's not just Illinois basketball fans that were excited about the addition of 7-foot, 286-pound freshman center Kofi Cockburn. His new Illini teammates were pretty pumped, too, and they've already seen the benefits of having a big man like him to play off of on the court.
"It made my game much better and, of course, made me look better driving and throwing lobs knowing he can get it," Illinois sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu said. "He’s just a big guy. I can put that ball toward the rim where only he can get it, and I know he’ll go up there and get it. That’s great to have.
"Like anything else — like a quarterback and a receiver — you have to build trust and you have build chemistry. I have to get to learn where he likes the ball at to make it easier for him to score. That’s what we’re doing now. We’re trying to build our chemistry and just play together and just try to get better."
Cockburn's offensive game won't just be finishing lobs or overpowering defenders on the block. That's a big part of what he does, of course, but Dosunmu said he's seen Cockburn's game develop even in the last few months beyond being "the collegiate version of Shaq."
"He’s learning the game and also adding moves to his arsenal where he’s not just playing bully ball," Dosunmu said. "He’s actually doing skill work and working on his game, and I applaud him for that."