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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Will Brad Underwood get a chance to coach standout center Kofi Cockburn for a third season at Illinois? Stay tuned.

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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 on Brad Underwood’s team:

Episode 148: Pondering the portal

The 2021-22 Illinois basketball roster has one clear need as the offseason continues. The combination of Kofi Cockburn declaring for the NBA draft, Giorgi Bezhanishvili opting to turn pro and Jermaine Hamlin entering the transfer portal means the Illini have a frontcourt opening to fill. Cockburn still has dibs on one of the two currently available scholarships, but Illinois' need only intensifies should he stay in the draft.

UMass transfer Tre Mitchell is an obvious top target. Two more intriguing big men entered the transfer portal Monday, however. The Illini haven't been tied to either — not yet or publicly at least — but both would be interesting additions for next season to a frontcourt that currently features Omar Payne, Coleman Hawkins, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk and Brandon Lieb. 

Moussa Cisse's stay at Memphis lasted just a single season. The former five-star prospect — he was ranked 10th nationally in the Class of 2020 in the 247Sports Composite — started all 28 games he played for the Tigers as a freshman and averaged 6.6 points and 6.3 rebounds. The 6-foot-11, 220-pound Cisse, who played with Cockburn for one season at Christ the King (N.Y.), would be another rangy rim runner/shot blocker alongside Payne. 

Also newly in the portal is now former Illinois State forward Dusan Mahorcic, who has already received plenty of high major interest.

Mahorcic was unranked coming out of Niles Notre Dame in the Class of 2018. The 6-10, 230-pound forward spent his freshman season at Division II Lewis and his sophomore year at Moberly Area Community College (Mo.) before joining the Redbirds. The Belgrade, Serbia, native started 16 of 22 games for Illinois State in 2020-21 and averaged 9.9 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 59.1 percent from the field.

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

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