John Calipari’s NWO-like offseason might not be done yet.
On Tuesday, Kofi Cockburn announced that his future plans will be written in stone soon when the five-man announces his junior season playing intentions. All signs point to the physical specimen and former top-50 recruiting returning to Illinois or transferring to Kentucky. No matter what he decides, Cockburn will be one of the best players in college basketball next season.
Helping Illinois to their first Big Ten Tournament title since 2005 and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Cockburn put up 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds in 27 minutes per night for a Fighting Illini club that finished the year 24-7 with a loss in the Round of 32. However, the raw stats don’t tell the whole story.
The seven-foot, 285-pound big man was a consensus second-team All-American last season for the efficiency he was able to bring to the floor. While not a tremendous shot blocker, Cockburn still made a major impact on a nightly basis for Illinois in the Big Ten. The numbers — borrowed from KenPom — showed that as Cockburn was truly one of the most efficient players in college basketball ranking in the top-75 in seven different categories:
— 5th in fouls drawn per 40 minutes
— 10th in offensive rebound rate
— 17th in effective field goal percentage
— 19th in free throw rate
— 44th in two-point field goal percentage
— 52nd in true shooting percentage
— 69th in defensive rebound rate
Heading into the 2021-22 season, an argument can be made that Cockburn is a top-five player in college basketball, and Kentucky has a chance to add him to their roster in July. This could create quite the logjam in the frontcourt for John Calipari and his coaching staff to figure out, but the juice would be worth the squeeze. Surrounded by shooters and a good point guard, Cockburn could be a dominant force in the paint for Kentucky. The Wildcats would likely need to avoid twin tower lineups with Oscar Tshiebwe, Daimion Collins, and Lance Ware, but that is already known.
A decision still needs to be made, but the addition of Cockburn could make Kentucky the national championship contender for next year. What a run for
Scott Hall I mean John Calipari this offseason. Maybe some new walkout music should be played at Rupp Arena?