Cockburn sweeps Big Ten weekly accolades after Illinois’ victory over Lindenwood


Freshman center Kofi Cockburn shoots a free-throw at the line during Illinois’ game against the Citadel at the State Farm Center Nov. 20. Cockburn’s fourth double-double in five games helped lead the Illini past the Bulldogs 85-57 on Wednesday night. Captured at State Farm Center on 20 Nov, 2019 by Jonathan Bonaguro.

By Tatiania Perry

Freshman center Kofi Cockburn spent the first half of Illinois’ game against Lindenwood Tuesday night trying to adjust to the small size of the Lions and their speed.

Cockburn didn’t start Tuesday’s matchup in his normal flashy fashion. He capitalized on a missed jumper and passed to senior Andrès Feliz to score the first points of the game.

It wasn’t until the last minute of the first half that Cockburn truly had his confidence-boosting, break-out moment to set him up for the second half.

With 1:07 left, Cockburn stole the ball mid-court, hustled his way through the empty frontcourt for a dunk that received a full standing ovation by the entire football team who was sitting behind the basket.

By the end of the night, Cockburn had found his groove again but fell two rebounds short of what could have been his fourth consecutive double-double and his sixth on the season.

“We’ve got guys that can go get it,” Head coach Brad Underwood said. “Kofi probably could have scored at will and yet it was a game where we got out and we got running and made some baskets.”

Cockburn swept both Big Ten weekly honors, the conference announced on Monday, taking home both Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Week accolades.

The freshman averaged 17.7 points and 14.7 rebounds and had a double-double, while shooting nearly 58% from the field in all three Illini victories in the week, placing him on top.

“Of everything that Kofi has done to this point, one thing I am probably impressed with is Kofi’s ability to guard guards and his lateral quickness,” Underwood said. “When he spreads out he’s very big and hard to get around.”

He became the first player since Nick Ward of Michigan State in 2017 to sweep the league’s weekly player and freshman award. His award marks his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor.

In his time at Illinois, he has set the Illini freshman single-game rebounding record against The Citadel grabbing 17 boards.

Cockburn became the fifth Big Ten player with five double-doubles in his first six games of a season since 2010-11, joining Ethan Happ of Wisconsin, Jordan Murphy of Minnesota and Caleb Swanigan of Purdue.

He also became the fifth Division I freshman with double-doubles in five of his first six games since 2010-11, joining Deandre Ayton of Arizona and Brandon McCoy of UNLV in 2017-18, Ben Simmons of LSU in 2015-16 and Julius Randle of Kentucky in 2013-14.

“In these last few games we have seen a lot of smaller-sized guys that he’s had to guard that can really shoot it and for the most part he’s continuing to grow in that area,” Underwood said. “He’s done a heck of a job.”


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