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NCAA suspends Illinois basketball star Kofi Cockburn 3 games for selling gear

NCAA suspends Illinois basketball star Kofi Cockburn 3 games for selling gear
Illinois star center Kofi Cockburn (R), shown Dec. 21, 2019, was named a preseason All-American last month. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Illinois men's basketball player Kofi Cockburn received a three-game suspension from the NCAA on Monday for selling "institutionally issued apparel and memorabilia" in June, the school announced.

The sales would have been allowed under name, image and likeness legislation in the state of Illinois, which was enacted July 1, but it was considered a violation under NCAA guidelines because it occurred in June.

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In addition to the three-game ban, Cockburn will repay the earnings from his sales by donating to a charity of his choice.

Illinois men's basketball head coach Brad Underwood said he was "disappointed" with the NCAA's ruling.

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"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," Underwood said in a statement. "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."

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Cockburn, a 7-foot center and Jamaica native, was named a preseason All-American last month after earning first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American honors in the 2020-21 season. He was one of the most dominant big men in the country, averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks last year.

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The 22-year-old Cockburn put his name into the NBA Draft process after last season, but he withdrew and briefly entered the transfer portal in July. Kentucky was initially considered the favorite to land his commitment, but Cockburn ultimately pulled out of the transfer portal and returned to Illinois for his junior season.

The Fighting Illini are scheduled to open their college basketball season against Jackson State on Nov. 9. Cockburn will miss that opener, followed by games against Arkansas State and Marquette.

Cockburn will be eligible to return for Illinois' matchup against Cincinnati on Nov. 22.

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