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J. Thomas McNamara

      Illinois junior center Kofi Cockburn will miss the first three games of the 2021-22 regular season, serving an NCAA suspension required as part of the reinstatement process triggered because Cockburn sold institutionally issued apparel and memorabilia in June.

       Cockburn’s activities occurred before July 1, when the State of Illinois and the NCAA enacted new NIL legislation that would have made these sales permissible. In addition to the missed games, Cockburn will repay the amount generated from selling apparel by making a donation to a charity of his choice, as part of his reinstatement process.

      “We are disappointed with the three-game suspension, because there were unprecedented factors and altered timelines related to his decision to ultimately withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school,” Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood said.

       “Once Kofi had a full understanding of where he stood regarding the draft, he made an educated decision to return to school, work toward his degree, and continue improving his game.

         “That said, we understand and respect the NCAA’s decision in this matter, and we will move forward accordingly. As always, Kofi’s attitude and outlook remain upbeat and positive. He is focused on helping his teammates prepare for the season, and we can’t wait to have him rejoin us on the court.”

        A national player of the year candidate and preseason first-team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year selection, Cockburn will be sidelined for Illinois’ season opener vs. Jackson State on Nov. 9, Arkansas State on Nov. 12, and the Gavitt Tipoff Games at Marquette on Nov. 15. He is permitted to continue practicing with the team during the suspension, and he is slated to return to action at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City on Nov. 22 vs. Cincinnati.

    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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