“They have no idea what I’m capable of,” – Reading Eagle
Kofi Cockburn knew that this week in Chicago participated in the NBA Draft, having a lot to prove.
After using this event as a growth experience last year, the former Illinois center is set to join the NBA next season. And despite predictions in the second round and questions about his perimeter abilities, Cockburn believes he can take a place as a professional.
“A lot of people doubt my ability to adapt to the NBA,” Cockburn said. “You can put me in any situation and I can definitely contribute. … The NBA is a completely different game. They have no idea what I am capable of, so they will always doubt. “
Cockburn was drafted after his third season in Illinois, averaging 20.9 points and 10.6 rebounds and was named American for the second year in a row.
With a height of 7 feet with a wingspan of 7 feet 4, Cockburn’s size was the most obvious advantage on the combine. When other prospects at the center, such as Chet Holmgren, gave up clashes to avoid injury, Cockburn towered over his opposition on Thursday and Friday.
Cockburn idolized Shaquille O’Neill as a young player who studied the game in Jamaica, and this fierce physicality in office dominates his style of play.
“A lot of people tell me that if it was the 1990s, I would have been taken into the top 10,” Cockburn said with a laugh.
But the central role has changed dramatically since the O’Neill era, raising new expectations in great people.
Cockburn isn’t a strong shooter on the perimeter, missing the only three-pointer he’s tried in Illinois. His agility has also been a key focus for improvement throughout his collegiate career, witnessing significant improvement in his junior season. He still needs to develop this area of his game to succeed in the NBA, in which big men like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embid regularly knock down threes to stretch the field.
Cockburn is still in the top 15 center with predictions for the second round, but his reserves may be limited by how the position developed.
Wednesday’s training revealed Cockburn’s expected strengths and weaknesses. Although the middle distance shooting was 14 to 25, he got a 14 to 25 result (36th overall) in point shooting. He was also one of the slowest players in the shuttle run (fourth worst in 3.31 seconds) and a skill test on the track (third worst in 12.11 seconds).
Two days of competition allowed Cockburn to demonstrate his abilities in paint. On Thursday he scored 11 points and 13 rebounds, and on Friday he scored 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Although Cockburn said he was not happy with the number of touches he received in the clashes, he stressed the importance of showing teams that he can get ahead of any opponent.
“I thought these guys were going to shoot, I’m going to bounce back,” Cockburn said. “No team will put me in a star game. I will need to find my role in defense, conversation, bringing positive energy and rebound. “
Cockburn brought a stormy presence to the court during the clashes, shouting in support of teammates from the sidelines and embracing opponents with a smile after fouls. When he smashed the dunk with both hands in the second half of Friday’s bout, Cockburn’s excited scream hit Wintrust Arena.
His success on the combine continued a week of good news for the Illinois program. Former Illinois teammate and Bull guard Ayo Dosunmu, a Morgan Park product, got a spot in the second All-Rookie team on Wednesday, ending a breakthrough season.
Despite reaching the second round of last year’s draft, Dosunmu was successful after the Bulls chose it from the 38th to choose. For most of the last third of the season, he wore the mantle of a quarterback, as there were injuries in the starting lineup, averaging 8.8 points and 3.3 assists.
Although the Bulls have to build up the interior to support central Nikola Vucevic, Cockburn is unlikely to land in Chicago. The Bulls have so far failed to single out Mark Simanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian striker who spent most of the season with the Windy City in the 2020 draft. This offseason, they are looking for more developed talent to improve their size, and Cockburn will need more long-term development.
But Cockburn said he still hopes Dosunmu will show a kind word in front of the Bulls office before the call-up. The two are still talking every day, Cockburn’s relationship is not expected to change, even if they become rivals next season.
During the Bulls season, he called Dasunma before each game to talk. Dasunma did the same in front of the combine.
“He’s my brother to me,” Cockburn said. “He always takes care of me.”
The combine has become a familiar experience for Cockburn, who went through this process last year. At the time, Cockburn said going back to college was a difficult decision. This year the choice has been easier – even with the potential of guaranteed NIL deals waiting for it in Champaign.
After 19 interviews at last year’s plant, Cockburn said he had not interviewed any new teams this week, although his agent is coordinating meetings with several teams.
Cockburn’s next steps will be decided on June 23 at the NBA in New York.