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Kofi Cockburn likely staying at Illinois, per report; UK still pushing for Jalen Duren

A very odd situation.

Loyola Chicago v Illinois Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It sounds like one of the top transfers in the country won’t transfer after all.

According to KSR’s Drew Franklin, Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn is unlikely to transfer to Kentucky and is now expected to return to Champaign for his junior season. Franklin added that Kentucky is still hopeful of landing five-star recruit Jalen Duren, who is expected to reclassify from the 2022 class.

One source told KSR that Kentucky’s coaching staff is not expecting Cockburn to join the team and the interest on Kentucky’s side wasn’t as high as many believed, myself included. That could be a misdirection on UK’s end in a losing effort, but the likely scenario is Calipari was uninterested in Cockburn because he is good with Tshiebwe—or even better, still hopeful for Jalen Duren. There is talk that Calipari never spoke to Cockburn at all.

LEX 18’s Keith Farmer also had this to say.

The fact that John Calipari supposedly never spoke with Cockburn is very odd. Perhaps there’s more to this story waiting to be revealed later.

A lot of momentum was growing that Cockburn may end up in Lexington, but that doesn’t appear to be on the table now, if it ever was to begin with based on these latest reports.

Illinois was one of the best teams in the country last season, and while keeping Cockburn would certainly help, they did lose a lot of talent to the NBA Draft and transfer market. They still figure to be a top 10-15 team entering next season now that they have what should be a National Player of the Year candidate back in the fold.

As a sophomore Cockburn averaged 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks a game while shooting 65% from the field last season.

The 7-footer mentioned to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony that the Kentucky Wildcats were a “serious option,” but he left the door open for a return to Illinois and that is ultimately what he decided to do.

Cockburn is the type of player that Kentucky didn’t have heading into this season, but they still added a ton of talent in the transfer portal and will be one of the top teams in the country.

Kentucky has one more possible option in Jalen Duren, who’s expected to reclassify into 2021 and play college ball next season. However, the Memphis Tigers have been picking up the most buzz recently. A decision is expected to come sometime after the Peach Jam later this month.

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