Center Kofi Cockburn will also return to the Illini for 2020-2021

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CHAMPAIGN, IL – DECEMBER 11: Illinois Fighting Illini center Kofi Cockburn (21) shoots a jump shot as Michigan Wolverines center Jon Teske (15) gets a hand up on defense during the Big Ten Conference college basketball game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Illinois Fighting Illini on December 11, 2019, at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHAMPAIGN – Ever since the NCAA Tournament was officially canceled, Illinois fans have been left to wonder what could be if two major players returned to the lineup for the 2020-2021 season.

The dream of having underclassmen Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn – both All-Big Ten players this past season – seemed to be remote when both put in their names in the NBA Draft this spring.

Since each did so without an agent, the possibility remained that one or both could return, and over the past 24 hours, that’s been the case. As it turns out, Kofi decided to follow Ayo’s lead on Saturday afternoon.

The center announced that he will return to the Illini for his sophomore season, giving Illinois back arguably their two most important players from a 21-win season last winter.

Cockburn was the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year in 2019-2020, winning the league’s weekly award for best rookie player seven times. On his way to being a third team All-Big Ten selection by the media, the center started all 31 games, averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game with 44 total blocks.

Cockburn’s announcement along with Ayo’s on Friday has Illini fans in a frenzy as they look toward a strong group for the 2020-2021 season. Some projections had Illinois beginning next year in the Top 15 as the team looks to officially make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

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