Kofi Cockburn was the player made available for Sunday’s pre-Cincinnati Zoom, and that makes sense. He’s the pre-season #B1G POTY, and the Cincy game is his first of the season.
Kofi’s presence was felt long before tip-time, though. It put Andre Curbelo’s mind to rest, for one thing. The debacle at Marquette demonstrated that Belo-to-Kofi doesn’t work when half the ingredients are missing. Curbelo can play his game now that Kofi’s back.
Doubters of the Underwood Administration multiplied in numbers during those final seven minutes of the Fiasco in Milwaukee. It’s the nature of the beast.
Time and again Belo charged into the lane. Time and again Kofi failed to clear a path, or anticipate a lob.
Because he was sitting on the bench.
Kofi wasn’t completely distressed as the game unfolded. He found moments to laugh with Pittsburgh’s finest (cop-cum-referee) Larry Scirotto, whose mere presence at games annoys Illini fans as much as it delights Kofi. The gentle giant and the aggressive Napoleon enjoy an off-court rapport.
Larry has a boisterous personality, like all the mouthy cops you remember from mouthy cop shows like The Wire or Law & Order. He’s cocky and good-natured. Kofi continued to banter with him throughout the game.
Kofi’s suspension provided some much-needed PT for his back-up, Omar Payne. Payne was fantastic against Marquette.
Unlike Cockburn, he’s not an offensive threat, but the problems he creates at the other end give opposing coaches fits. Payne didn’t quite pull a Darryl Morsell on the Golden Eagles, but he made them plenty uncomfortable.
And that’s exactly why he’s playing at Illinois. But it’s not just oppponents he’s here to bother. It’s his frend Cockburn: Having Omar defend Kofi on a daily basis will do more for this team than anybody will ever appreciate.
Coach Underwood said Omar’s defensive grade-out was excellent for the game at Marquette, and that’s what you would expect having seen the number of blocked and altered shots Omar provoked.
The Golden Eagles prospered in the mid-range game, where Justin Lewis picked-n-popped and exploited lazy close-outs to hit Nigel Hayes-style mid-range jumpers. You could live with Morsell going off on the Illini. It’s what he does. Lewis’s 17 points hurt.
Trent Frazier cried after the Marquette game. We know that because Brad said so in his postgame. And then moments later, we were sticking cameras & microphones up Trent’s snout, and the bright lights showed that he’d definitely just finished an hour’s swim in a heavily chlorinated pool, or been crying.
Trent is smarter than he knows, which is to say he’s smart, and he doesn’t know it. Not always. In a very human way, Trent has doubts and anxieties, and loyalties He defended Belo against perceived criticism after that game, because he had his guard up. He didn’t realize that our questions about Belo’s first time in front of a hostile crowd and Belo playing without Kofi weren’t necessarily dumping on Belo, but instead trying to grasp why Belo faltered.
It’s a reminder that these celebrities are still growing, and experience the same moments of fragility we all face, especially when we’re young & trying to figure things out.