Kofi Cockburn will not be a Kentucky Wildcat.
Barring some major turnaround between now and Friday — when the 7-footer will announce a final decision on his college basketball future — Cockburn will play next season for either Illinois or Florida State, with a return to the Illini viewed as the most likely scenario. He did not visit UK or Florida State this summer.
There has been considerable talk in college basketball circles for the past two weeks that Cockburn, a second-team All-American for Illinois this past season, would end up playing the 2021-22 campaign at Kentucky.
UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua recruited Cockburn to Illinois and coached him the past two seasons, and those two share a close bond. This offseason, Kentucky also hired another assistant, Chin Coleman, who coached Cockburn at Illinois the past two years.
The Herald-Leader was told Wednesday morning, however, that while Antigua and Coleman did pursue Cockburn after he put his name in the NCAA transfer portal prior to the July 1 deadline, his interest in transferring to Kentucky never reached the level that many locally and nationally assumed.
Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore for the Illini this past season, helping the program earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
National college basketball insider Jeff Goodman tweeted a prediction Wednesday morning that Cockburn will announce his return to Illinois later this week.
Kentucky’s roster for the 2021-22 season appeared set earlier this summer, but the emergence of Cockburn as a possible transfer addition and the expected reclassification of five-star center Jalen Duren — currently the No. 1 player in the 2022 class — has led to speculation that the Wildcats might not be finished adding to the team.
Duren remains a major possibility for UK, though the 6-10 center is also considering offers from Memphis, Miami and two professional leagues — the G League and the Australian-based NBL.
UK’s John Calipari, Memphis’ Penny Hardaway and Miami’s Jim Larranaga all watched Duren play during the first recruiting period of July this past weekend, and all three of those head coaches will see him with his Nike team over the next two weekends. The next live recruiting period begins Friday.
Duren is expected to announce a decision on his basketball future shortly after the conclusion of next week’s Nike Peach Jam finals. He took official visits to UK, Memphis and Miami last month.
If he picks Kentucky, he would join a frontcourt that already features Oscar Tshiebwe, Daimion Collins, Keion Brooks, Lance Ware, Jacob Toppin and Bryce Hopkins.