Kofi Cockburn agrees to professional contract with Japanese basketball club Niigata Albirex BB


Cameron Krasucki

Junior forward Kofi Cockburn stands during Illinois’ 74-72 win over Iowa at State Farm Center on March 6.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Former Illinois center Kofi Cockburn has agreed to sign with Japanese basketball team Niigata Albirex BB, per a statement made by the club’s official Twitter:

“We are pleased to inform you that we have agreed to a player contract with Kofi Cockburn for the B.League 2022–23 season. The conclusion of the player contract will be after the completion of various procedures.”

Cockburn’s contract agreement with the Japanese club would see the former Illini big player out his first full season of professional basketball after three seasons of college basketball and six games in the NBA Summer League.

Cockburn averaged an impressive 17.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in three years with Illinois. In addition to winning both a Big Ten tournament and a Big Ten regular-season title, the All-American played an instrumental role in helping the Illini achieve two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. The ‘King of Champaign’ is set to see his jersey hang from the rafters of State Farm Center one day, and following the 2021–22 season, Cockburn entered the 2022 NBA Draft.

While the All-American went undrafted, Cockburn signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Utah Jazz shortly afterward. The 7-foot center played for Utah’s NBA Summer League team and averaged seven points and eight rebounds in six appearances during the month of July. Despite playing well over the course of the competition, Cockburn was unable to sign a full contract with the Jazz and has remained a free agent, until now.

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    The B.League is already underway in Japan, and Cockburn will be joining a Niigata Albirex BB team that currently sits at the bottom of the standings.

    With one win and six losses, Niigata is looking for an impact player to spark a struggling offense that has been outscored by a -128 point difference across its seven games. Cockburn’s powerful back-to-the-basket play style guarantees points and could very well be the answer that the ​​Albirex are looking for.

    With Niigata’s jersey colors matching that of Illinois’ colors, it appears as though fans will once again get to see the All-American center suit up in the orange and blue.



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