Illini basketball


Kofi Cockburn loves learning, embraces constructive criticism.

The Big Man On Campus was decidedly demure Friday morning. You might even say glum.

Was Kofi Cockburn depressed? No, just reflective. Erich Fisher asked a typical freshman question, of the what do you need to work on variety. And Kofi had a lot to say, because he sees a lot of weaknesses in his game, especially on defense.

Strikingly, Kofi was not shy about sharing his deficiencies. “I like constructive criticism,” he declared.

There were at least four instances where Kofi screwed up during The Citadel game. These mental errors would likely have gone unreported except for Kofi’s eagerness for feedback and analysis of his weak spots. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is a remarkably mature outlook for a person who’s not considered, by the laws of his current domicile, old enough to make decisions about wine.

Brad Underwood addressed one of these mistakes in this morning’s press conference. He said Kofi’s fatigue allowed a lay-up for The Citadel.

There was a second lay-up that a better team would have scored when Kofi jogged down the floor, amused by his own performance on the offensive end, and oblivious to his responsibility as defensive safety. (The Citadel’s ball-handler didn’t recognize how easy it would be to dribble right past Kofi .)

Kofi over-hedged, pretty dramatically, on a defensive possession. He went out almost to the arc closest to the home bench. Conveniently, that’s the corner of the court where it’s easiest to hear the screams of the coaching staff. One assumes he wanted to intimidate, and possibly block a jump-shooter. His coaches wanted him to anchor the defense.

The fourth mistake was the fun one, because it involved Kofi’s teammates in an encouraging role. The Illini offense had an opportunity to get set and run a play. They had a lead, it was the second half, and the coaching staff wanted to run an action. But Kofi had forgotten the play, or didn’t hear the call.

Trent Frazier, standing at the free-throw line with his back to the basket, looked over his right shoulder, and stage-whispered “Kofi, up here!” Kofi moved to the far-side elbow, and Ayo, seeing everybody set, initiated the action.

There were almost certainly other times when Kofi was out of position, but we don’t need to dwell on them. These descriptions are provided only as context, to demonstrate the moments that this young man dwells on while determinedly focusing on his own improvement.

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