CHAMPAIGN — Illinois made its frontcourt a priority in recruiting the 2019 class, and after signing four-star center Kofi Cockburn last month the Illini added three-star forward Bernard Kouma on Thursday. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound big man signed his financial aid tender after missing the spring signing period for a National Letter of Intent.
"We are excited to officially welcome Bernard Kouma to the Fighting Illini family," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said in a release. "Bernard is a hard worker who has really improved during his years in the U.S.
"He is a skilled big who is a terrific rebounder, can use either hand around the basket, passes it well, and has become a physical presence as his body has developed. He will strengthen our frontcourt with his ability to impact the game at both ends of the court."
Originally from N'Djamena in the Republic of Chad, Kouma moved to the United States for high school. He started his prep career at Redemption Christian Academy in Northfield, Mass., before transferring to Our Saviour Lutheran in Queens, N.Y.
Kouma, who also played on the Nike EYBL circut for New York Lightning, is ranked as the No. 395 player in the 2019 class by 247Sports. He averaged 14.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks this past season as a senior, earning Great Atlantic Conference North Division I second-team honors.
Kouma's breakout performance during his senior year came with the Illinois coaches in attendance. He put up game highs of 29 points and 17 rebounds against New Jersey powerhouse Roselle Catholic — featuring one-time Illinois target and Kentucky signee Kahlil Whitney — in the Kyrie Irving Invitational at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.