Illini trending up for Cockburn?; Discovering suits for Dosunmu



There’s a lot of news each day. Illini Inquirer will try to make it easier to digest each weekday morning with the Daily Digest. Today, get up to speed on seemingly promising news on Kofi Cockburn, Bielema’s latest big in-state win, finding fits for Ayo Dosunmu, a title reunion for Illinois football and Tailon Leitzsey’s NIL deal.



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(Photo: Getty)


Kentucky is out on Kofi Cockburn, according to several reports from Kentucky reporters — including The Athletic and KentuckySportsRadio.com — which seems to be a very encouraging sign for Illinois to keep its All-American big man before his Friday decision. Cockburn himself tweeted a he will choose from a final three that includes Illinois, Kentucky and Florida State.

  • “One source told KSR that Kentucky’s coaching staff is not expecting Cockburn to join the team and the interest on Kentucky’s side wasn’t as high as many following the situation believed, myself included,” Kentucky Sports Radio’s Drew Franklin reported
  • “Despite a deep connection with Kentucky’s two new assistant coaches and a great deal of recent buzz that the Wildcats would top off their talent-gobbling binge by pulling Illinois star Kofi Cockburn from the transfer portal, multiple sources now say the 7-foot All-American is not coming to Lexington after all,” The Athletic’s Kyle Tucker reports


Yes, Florida State: Yes, the Seminoles were a surprise addition to the sweepstakes for the best transfer of the transfer portal era. FSU certainly has a strong sell. The Seminoles have made three straight Sweet 16 appearances, and Scottie Barnes will be the Seminoles’ sixth first-round draft pick (and eighth draft pick) since 2016. But would Cockburn really leave his legacy, a big brand, a talented supporting cast and a few coaches he knows well at Illinois for a school where he has no connection (unlike Kentucky, where his lead recruiter and position coach now is on staff)?


What it means: With Kentucky reportedly out, Illinois on paper certainly looks like the favorite now to keep its All-American big man, which would keep Illinois among the nation’s and Big Ten’s top teams and also solidify Cockburn’s legacy as one of the best to ever play for Illinois. But there will be one more day of nerves in Champaign until it’s known for sure where Cockburn will play.



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(Photo: Jeremy Werner, 247Sports)


Aidan Laughery turned down Iowa in favor of home-state Illinois on Wednesday, picking up an Illinois hat on a live WCIA 3 News broadcast to give Illinois its 14th commitment in the Class of 2022 and the eighth in-state commitment. According to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Laughery is the No. 904 overall prospect in the Class of 2022, the No. 75 athlete and the No. 18 senior in the state of Illinois.


Scouting report: Laughery has a really good mix of legitimate power-five speed — he ran a 10.58-second 100-meter dash this spring — with legitimate power-five power to his running style. He can beat defenders to an edge and accelerate quickly and outrun high school defenders for long gains. But he also seeks out contact and churns out yards after contact between the tackles. His defensive film at safety also is impressive, and he’s the type of athlete who could easily make a switch and be a very good safety prospect.



Why it matters: Laughery arguably is so far the biggest win for Bielema during his first full recruiting cycle because it was a brutal Big Ten battle victory. Iowa desperately wanted Laughery and pushed extremely hard. The Hawkeyes, who had two Crystal Ball picks for Laughery up until the final moments before his decision, want two running backs to help them replace star Tyler Goodson and arguably had a better football sell: more proven success and potentially an earlier path to playing time. Yet, Bielema and the Illini still won the recruitment, over a Big Ten West rival, over a routinely top-25 program, over his alma mater.


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(Photo: Getty)


The NBA Draft is just two weeks away, and for the first time in nine years, Illinois looks like a lock to produce a draft pick. All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu is a consensus late first-round or early second-round pick, according to most draft experts. But where could he best fit? In a great breakdown, The Ringer’s NBA Draft Guide suggested Dosunmu for six different franchises. Let’s break them down.


New York Knicks: Picks 19, 21, 32 and 58

  • The fit: The Knicks own three picks in the range Dosunmu is projected to go, and after a surprising top-four finish in the East last season, the Knicks are looking to add to its solid, young core. With Derrick Rose, Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton free agents, the Knicks will be looking for a lot of backcourt help, and Dosunmu could be a plug-and-play, versatile piece who could complement Immanuel Quickley and R.J. Barrett — and he seems like a player who could thrive under Tom Thibodeau’s tough-minded, no-frills approach.


Phoenix Suns: Pick 29

  • The fit: There wouldn’t be many better situations for Dosunmu than playing for the defending Western Conference champ (and potential NBA Finals champ) and learning behind future Hall of Famer Chris Paul and alongside superstar Devin Booker and blossoming star center DeAndre Ayton. With Cam Payne likely to cash in this offseason (who saw that coming?), Phoenix is in need of a backup point guard and long-term solution next to Booker. Dosunmu would be a good fit with a bunch of good shooters, including Booker, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.


Clippers: Pick 25

  • The fit: The Clippers likely will need to replace Reggie Jackson, who was a revelation in the playoffs, and a team with a win-now attitude seems likely to take an immediate-impact player like Dosunmu or Jared Butler. Dosunmu could learn from and complement Rajon Rondo and Patrick Beverley and play a solid supporting role alongside superstars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard — assuming Leonard doesn’t opt out and enter free agency.


Milwaukee Bucks: Pick 31

  • The fit: Another potential title contender fit for Dosunmu, Milwaukee could be interested in a high-floor role player like Dosunmu. With Donte DiVincenzo already on the roster and with Bryn Forbes potentially testing free agency, the Bucks may look for a more scintillating wing shooter (how about Joe Wieskamp?) to complement Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, but Dosunmu would add another long, versatile, fast guard to the NBA’s best defense team that also plays a fast pace on offense.


Boston Celtics: Pick 45

  • The fit: Dosunmu makes a ton of sense for a Boston team that may trade Marcus Smart and needs an immediate-impact, big boost at point guard — and one who can defend. There would be a lot worse fits for Dosunmu than dishing to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but the Celtics likely would need to trade up to get Dosunmu.


Chicago Bulls: Pick 38

  • The fit: Oh, this is sure to get the locals excited, and the fit does make a lot of sense as Dosunmu could be a nice complement alongside star scorer Zach LaVine and microwave scorer Coby White. Though Dosunmu and Tomas Satoransky have some similarities as long guards with good IQ, Satoransky has just one year left on his deal and could be a trade piece with the Bulls looking for an offseason upgrade at point guard (Lonzo Ball, Spencer Dinwiddie, etc.). The Bulls are in win-now mode and have no other draft capital after trading their first-round draft pick for Nikola Vucevic, and Dosunmu could provide first-round value if he slipped into the second round.


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(Photo: courtesy Illinois athletics)


Illinois football will host a 20-year reunion for the last Illini team to win the Big Ten Championship during the weekend of the Illini’s Aug. 28 season opener against Nebraska. The 2001 title team will be honored at the game (12 p.m. kickoff during Week Zero) and will sign autographs in Grange Grove before the game. On Friday, Aug. 27, tan event will be held at Smith Football Center and a formal reunion is planned following Saturday’s game.


History lesson: The 2001 team went 10-2 and earned the program’s first-ever spot in the BCS games, losing to LSU in the 2002 Sugar Bowl. Quarterback Kurt Kittner and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd led a prolific passing offense, while Antoineo Harris and Rocky Harvey were a successful rushing duo behind a strong offensive line that was led by future NFL players David Diehl, Tony Pashos and Sean Bubin. Defensive back Eugene Wilson led the nation with an Illini-record 30 pass breakups.



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(Photo: courtesy Illinois athletics)


Illinois defensive back Tailon Leitzsey has a deal with Clearcover, an auto insurance company, that will pay the former walk-on $10,000, the company announced on Wednesday. Leitzsey is the first athlete to sign a marketing deal with Clearcover, which seemed attracted to Leitzsey’s effort to earn a spot on the Illini football roster, including sleeping in his car during training camp, before earning a scholarship from new Illini head coach Bret Bielema this spring. The campaign’s brand slogan for Leitzsey’s marketing deal is “Inspired Underdog Spirit.”


What they’re saying: “We’re excited to partner with NCAA student-athletes, specifically underdogs and walk-ons, to bring recognition to these resilient players,” said Clearcover CEO Kyle Nakatsuji, a former walk-on football player at Wisconsin. “When we started Clearcover, we knew we were entering an industry that’s been dominated by powerful incumbents. So, we had to embrace the idea of being an underdog, and we still do today—it’s one of our core values. Our team knows what it looks like to face adversity with courage and tenacity, and to put in the behind-the-scenes effort each day to play the long game—and win. …I know firsthand that walk-ons and underdogs are some of the most resilient, passionate, and dedicated athletes out there. There’s a lot of sweat and hard work involved without a lot of glory—or even support, in some cases. So we’re going to find these types of college athletes and honor their hard work and dedication.”


Also in NIL: Illinois freshman guard Brandin Podziemski announced Wednesday he will host a camp in his home state of Wisconsin.


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Happy Thursday. Time to take a breath before Friday’s big news?


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