For all the excitment at Illinois this year, from earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament to the Illini's second-round loss to Loyola-Chicago, the biggest decision for the immediate future came in the heat of midsummer when Kofi Cockburn announced he was coming back for his junior season.
The seven-foot center's choice brought another dose of sky-high hopes for the 11th-ranked Illini, who went 24-7 overall and 16-4 in the Big Ten last season. Cockburn is the unquestioned anchor of the team after averaging 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game - something he wants to better.
"I'm willing to put the work in, and I'm willing to put it all on the line," Cockburn said. "Illinois basketball means a lot to me."