Sunday, June 4, 2023

Kofi Cockburn to prove NBA skeptics wrong after draft alliance: ‘They don’t know what I’m capable of’

Kofi Cockburn knew he entered the NBA draft in Chicago this week with a lot to prove.

After using the event as a development experience last year, the former Illinois center is set to enter the NBA next season. And despite second-round estimations and questions about his perimeter abilities, Cockburn believes he can make it as a professional.

“Many people doubt my ability to adapt to the NBA,” Cockburn said. “You can put me in any position and I can certainly contribute. … the NBA is an entirely different ballgame. They have no idea what I am capable of so they will always have doubts. ,

Cockburn declared for the draft after his third season at Illinois after averaging 20.9 points and 10.6 rebounds and was named an All-American for the second straight year.

At 7 feet tall with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Cockburn’s size was his most obvious advantage in combination. Cockburn overcame his opposition on Thursday and Friday, with other top-centre prospects such as Chet Holmgren vying for injury.

Cockburn idolized Shaquille O’Neill as a youngster learning the game in Jamaica, and the rigid physicality in the post dominates his playing style.

“A lot of people tell me that if the 1990s were there, I’d be in the top 10,” Cockburn laughed.

But Kendra’s role has changed dramatically since O’Neill’s era, placing new hopes on the big guys.

Cockburn is not a strong perimeter shooter, having only attempted a 3-pointer in Illinois. His agility was also key to improving his collegiate career, given the huge improvement in his junior season. He still needs to develop that area of ​​his game to be successful in the NBA, with big guys like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid regularly knocking down 3s to stretch the court.

Cockburn is still a top-15 center with second-round estimates, but his stock may be limited depending on how the situation has developed.

Wednesday’s workout highlighted the expected strengths and weaknesses for Cockburn. Despite going 14-for-25 in midrange shooting – despite finishing first in drills – he went 14-for-25 (36th overall) in spot shooting. He was also one of the slowest players in the shuttle run (fourth worst in 3.31 seconds) and in the lane-agility test (third worst in 12.11 seconds).

Two days of sobriety allowed Cockburn to demonstrate his abilities in paint. He recorded 11 points and 13 rebounds on Thursday, then 19 points and 11 rebounds on Friday.

Although Cockburn said he was not satisfied with the number of touches he received at scrimmage, he emphasized the importance of showing teams that he could dismiss any opponent.

“I thought these guys were going to shoot, I’m going to rebound,” Cockburn said. “No team is going to put me in star play. I have to seek to play my part in defense, talking up, bringing in positive energy and rebounding. ,

Cockburn made a strong presence on the court during the scrimmage, supporting teammates from the sidelines and grinning after the foul, slamming an arm around opponents. When he smashed a two-handed dunk through the rim in the second half of Friday’s scrimmage, Cockburn’s excited screams echoed in Wintrust Arena.

His success in the Coalition continued a week of good news for the Illinois program. Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu, a former Illinois teammate and Morgan Park product, earned a spot on the All-Rookie’s second team on Wednesday, capping a breakout season.

Despite falling in the second round in last year’s draft, Dosunmu managed after being selected with the 38th pick by the Bulls. He took command of the starting point guard for the final third of the season, as injuries plagued the starting lineup, averaging 8.8 points and 3.3 assists.

Although the Bulls need to enlarge their interior to support center Nikola Vusevic, Cockburn is unlikely to land in Chicago. The Bulls still haven’t been able to develop 2020 draft pick Marko Simonovic, the 6-foot-11 Serbian forward who spent most of the season with the Windy City roster. This season, they are looking for more developed talent to improve their shape, while Cockburn will need more long-term development.

But Cockburn said he still counts on Dosunmu to have a good word with the Bulls front office before the draft. The two still talk every day, a relationship Cockburn doesn’t expect to change, even if they become adversaries the next season.

During Bulls season, he called Dosunmu for a loud talk before every game. Dosunmu did the same in front of the combine.

“It’s that brother to me,” Cockburn said. “He always looks out for me.”

The combination was a familiar experience for Cockburn, who went through the process last year. At the time, Cockburn said it was a difficult decision to return to college. This year, that option was easy—even with the possibility of guaranteed NIL deals in Champagne.

After taking 19 interviews at last year’s Combine, Cockburn said he did not interview with any new teams this week, although his agent is coordinating meetings with several teams.

Cockburn’s next moves will be decided at the NBA in New York on June 23.


World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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