Driving lanes just got a bit less congested in the Big Ten on Wednesday after Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn announced he has put his name in the NBA Draft and will not return to college for his remaining eligibility.
Cockburn is just the latest star from the Big Ten to enter the draft early, leaving an opportunity for a shift in the balance of power next season.
The 7-foot and 285-pound Cockburn terrorized the Big Ten with his massive frame for three seasons. He averaged career highs of 20.9 points and 10.6 rebounds during his junior campaign.
Illinois also lost Trent Frazier, Alfonso Plummer and Damonte Williams to eligibility, and Andre Curbelo to the transfer portal. Collectively that quintet including Cockburn averaged 60 of Illinois’ 74 points per game.
Joining Cockburn as headline departures from the Big Ten are three likely lottery picks in the June NBA Draft.
Iowa’s Keegan Murray projects as a top-10 pick after averaging 23.5 points per game and earning first-team All-American honors. The Hawkeyes also lose sharpshooting guard Jordan Bohannon to eligibility after six seasons. That duo produced more than 34 points per game.
Purdue’s Jaden Ivey also projects as a lottery pick, and the Boilermakers also lose Sasha Stefanovic and most likely Trevion Williams as well, leaving a combined 40 points per game void to fill.
Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis is a third likely lottery pick from the Big Ten. With Brad Davison also out of eligibility, the Badgers will have to replace their two leading scorers and nearly 34 points per game from the 2021-22 season.
Ohio State may also lose two stars to the NBA Draft, with E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham both projecting in the late first round in many mock drafts. That duo combined to average more than 33 points per game for the Buckeyes. Both can come back, but most don’t turn down a first round projection.
Finally, Rutgers expects to lose Ron Harper, Jr., who put his name in the NBA Draft, and his long-time teammate Geo Baker is out of eligibility. They combined to score more than 28 points per game last year for the Scarlet Knights.
Collectively, Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa, Ohio State and Rutgers comprised the top-six in the 2021-22 Big Ten standings, and their roster turnover at least suggests on paper that they will have challenges staying in that upper echelon.
Of course Indiana is also awaiting a major decision of their own after leading scorer Trayce Jackson-Davis announced two weeks ago he has his name in the NBA Draft while leaving open the option to return. His decision is another key cog in the outlook for the league crown in 2022-23. The Hoosiers join programs like Michigan and Michigan State waiting to potentially climb the ladder if their stars return for next season.
We’ll have a complete recap of the roster turnover in the Big Ten once the deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft passes on June 1.
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