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Turner praises Cockburn for return to college

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Turner praises Cockburn for return to college

National senior men’s basketball team coach Rick Turner says Jamaican basketballer Kofi Cockburn’s return to the University of Illinois is a win-win situation for both player and school as he continues work towards the NBA.

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Cockburn, 21, confirmed on Friday that he was returning to Illinois for his junior season after withdrawing from the 2021 NBA draft. He was the most notable player to enter the NCAA transfer portal, entertaining offers from Florida State University and the University of Kentucky. Cockburn initially declared for the draft in April, as well as his intention to leave Illinois after his sophomore season.

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Turner said that the continuity and familiarity that he had at the ‘Fighting Illini’ made the difference in him turning down Kentucky, which has a record of producing NBA calibre talent.

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“I’m sure that Illinois and the fans of Illinois are excited as well,” Turner told The Sunday Gleaner . “Any time someone doesn’t choose Kentucky, it’s a little bit of an upset, so to speak.

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“I wouldn’t say that I was surprised, because he’s a good guy with a good head on his shoulders, and I think he understands what he had at Illinois, and the staff that provided for them. I think it was an easy decision for him, really.”

Cockburn’s return also presents an opportunity to benefit from the new NCAA policy allowing all current and incoming athletes to monetise their name and image. While Turner says that it will take a few years to see the true benefits of the rule, Cockburn has the ability to benefit immediately, given his personality and being in college longer than those who spent only one year before going to the NBA

BIGGEST NAME IN THE GAME “The one and done guys aren’t around long enough to establish any kind of a name or brand,” Turner said. “In terms of college basketball, he is the biggest name in the game right now. I’m sure he is thinking about that. From a marketing standpoint, he checks all the boxes

National senior men’s basketball team coach Rick Turner says Jamaican basketballer Kofi Cockburn’s return to the University of Illinois is a win-win situation for both player and school as he continues work towards the NBA.

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Cockburn, 21, confirmed on Friday that he was returning to Illinois for his junior season after withdrawing from the 2021 NBA draft. He was the most notable player to enter the NCAA transfer portal, entertaining offers from Florida State University and the University of Kentucky. Cockburn initially declared for the draft in April, as well as his intention to leave Illinois after his sophomore season.

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Turner said that the continuity and familiarity that he had at the ‘Fighting Illini’ made the difference in him turning down Kentucky, which has a record of producing NBA calibre talent.

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“I’m sure that Illinois and the fans of Illinois are excited as well,” Turner told The Sunday Gleaner . “Any time someone doesn’t choose Kentucky, it’s a little bit of an upset, so to speak.

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“I wouldn’t say that I was surprised, because he’s a good guy with a good head on his shoulders, and I think he understands what he had at Illinois, and the staff that provided for them. I think it was an easy decision for him, really.”

Cockburn’s return also presents an opportunity to benefit from the new NCAA policy allowing all current and incoming athletes to monetise their name and image. While Turner says that it will take a few years to see the true benefits of the rule, Cockburn has the ability to benefit immediately, given his personality and being in college longer than those who spent only one year before going to the NBA

BIGGEST NAME IN THE GAME “The one and done guys aren’t around long enough to establish any kind of a name or brand,” Turner said. “In terms of college basketball, he is the biggest name in the game right now. I’m sure he is thinking about that. From a marketing standpoint, he checks all the boxes.

“Again, how that will manifest itself in the first year of this ability to take advantage of it, I don’t know how it’s going to work. But if anyone can do it and kind of reap some of those benefits, it’s going to be him.”

Cockburn had a breakout sophomore season last year, averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and a 65.4 per cent shooting rate from the field, guiding Illinois to the Big 10 conference championship and an appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year. Additionally, he was named first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All American

In an ESPN interview on July 6, Cockburn said that NBA teams wanted to see improvements in his perimeter play, which he guaranteed will happen next season

NBA teams are going to see my midrange game next year, and my playmaking,” Cockburn said.

Turner said that another year working with Illinois head coach Brad Underwood will help to make the necessary adjustments

“Just the idea that he was able to have the maturity to make the decision to go back to school, I think is just really commendable,” Turner said. “What it’s going to provide for him is familiar surroundings where he knows the ability to get to the gym, the coaching staff, and he knows the things he needs to work on to get to that next level.”

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