CHAMPAIGN — Brad Underwood has tried to temper some of the expectations circling around freshman center Kofi Cockburn.
The third-year Illinois coach doesn’t want to place any early cap on what Cockburn could accomplish this season. Underwood has also simply been a bit more cautious the past couple seasons when discussing his freshmen and what they might accomplish before they’ve played a game.
“I don’t put those (expectations) on him,” Underwood said. “I think if you do then you cap him. He’s got a chance to be really good, but he’s also got a long way to go. He’ll do some things because of his size that others can’t, but I’m always going to temper my emotions until I see him. Then we can continue to work and grow in those areas.”
Cockburn raised the expectation level himself in Friday night’s 83-50 exhibition win against Division II Lewis in front of 12,867 fans at State Farm Center.
The 7-footer out of Kingston, Jamaica, led Illinois with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He was also a steady presence early as the Illini had to put together a comeback in the first half after falling behind the Flyers by as many as 12 points on two separate occasions.
Trent Frazier joined Cockburn in double figures with 13 points. Andres Feliz and Giorgi Bezhanishvili added 12 points apiece and 13 rebounds combined, while freshman Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk knocked down three three-pointers and had 11 points off the bench during the final 10 minutes of the game.
But the man many came to see was the talk of Friday night. Among the fans and his teammates.
“He’s a monster down there,” Frazier said. “He’s been great for us all preseason. It’s crazy to say he’s gotten three times better since he got here. ... Our goal as guards is to get him the ball.”