Kouma commits to Illini’s class of 2019


By Rachel Spencer, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois basketball picked up another commit Thursday, with N’Djamena, Chad, native and three-star recruit Bernard Kouma joining top-50 recruit Kofi Cockburn as a member of the Illini’s class of 2019.

Kouma signed a Big Ten Tender of Financial Aid and made his own personal announcement on Twitter, complete with orange and blue emojis. He had previously made a verbal commit back in April as what would have been the third member of the Illini’s 2019 class before Antwan January decommited at the end of April.

The 6-foot-10-inch power forward relocated to the United States for high school, where he was coached by Peter Wehye at Our Savior Lutheran School in the Bronx and also competed in Amateur Athletic Union basketball as a member of the New York Lightning. Before moving to the Bronx, Kouma started his stateside basketball career at Redemption Christian Academy in Northfield, Massachusetts. In his final season at Our Savior Lutheran, Kouma averaged 14.3 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks — which proved enough for Kouma to earn second-team status in the Great Atlantic Conference North Division I.

To many, the addition of Kouma to Illinois’ lineup resembles Underwood’s recruiting of then-unknown sophomore Giorgi Bezhanishvili; both Kouma and Bezhanishvili were unranked recruits who caught Underwood’s attention.

Kouma’s presence on the court will likely provide some relief to his fellow big man, Bezhanishvili, who led the Illini around the basket with an average of 5.2 rebounds per game and blocked shots this past season. Both Kouma and his fellow recruit Cockburn are expected to aid in Illinois’ frontcourt play — aid head coach Brad Underwood and his team could use after the Illini finished 307th in rebound percentage for the 2018-19 season.

The Illini 2019 recruiting class now sits as a modest ninth in the Big Ten Conference and 63rd nationally.


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