CHAMPAIGN — The wait is over and Illinois fans can let out a sigh of relief.
Four-star big man Kofi Cockburn officially signed his National Letter of Intent with the Illinois men's basketball team, immediately giving the Illini a massive presence in the post.
Cockburn is a 7-foot, 290-pound big man who will give the team the size it desperately lacked last season. He's ranked No. 38 by Rivals, No. 41 by 247Sports and No. 46 by ESPN in the country, and is ranked the No. 9 center in the country by Rivals, No. 10 by 247Sports and No. 11 by ESPN.
He's the highest-ranked post player to sign with the Illini since Meyers Leonard did so in 2010 out of Robinson High School. As a senior last season, Cockburn averaged 14.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and shot 62.1 percent from the field for Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.
Cockburn announced the signing on his social media pages late Tuesday night and Illinois issued a press release on Wednesday morning confirming the signing.
"Kofi is a difference maker," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said in a statement. "It is rare that you see a young man with his size who also has great athleticism and agility. He has a unique skill set to go along with his 7-foot, 290-pound frame in that he moves really well and is a good passer. With his size, ability to finish, and rebounding power, Kofi will impact the game on both ends of the floor."
Cockburn averaged 9.5 points and 9.5 rebounds at the Geico High School Nationals tournament, where Oak Hill advanced to the semifinals to finish the year ranked No. 7 in the USA Today Super 25 final team rankings. He most recently competed for the World Team at the Nike Hoops Summit.
He came to the United States from Jamaica for high school, arriving in New York City. As a freshman he played organized basketball for the first time, attending Christ the King High School before making the move to Oak Hill for the 2018-19 season. He also played in AAU with the NY Renaissance, averaging 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds on the EYBL circuit last summer.
Cockburn is the first signee of the 2019 Class and is likely to be joined by big man Bernard Kouma, who verbally committed earlier in April. Antwan January was the first verbal commitment, but it's not clear that he will sign with the Illini.
PHOTOS: A look back at the Flyin' Illini
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Stephen Bardo grabs a rebound away from Georgia Tech's Johnny McNeil while Nick Anderson (25) and Kendall Gill head upcourt during the 1988-89 season.
The key cog in the Illini's 1989 Final Four run, Anderson only played two years but averaged 17.0 a game and 7.3 rebounds. He was team co-MVP in 1988 and MVP in 1989 before going on to the NBA for a 13-year career.
Kenny Battle played just two years, but his sizzling energy and passion made him the heart and soul of the Flyin’ Illini. Arguably the best dunker in Illini history, Battle transferred from Northern Illinois and scored 1,112 points in two seasons.
Flyin' Illini teammates Steven Bardo and Ervin Small carry Kendall Gill off the court after he brook his foot during the game during the 1988-89 season.
Kendall Gill had the perfect college career arc, improving each season until he averaged 20.0 points per game as a senior, earning First-Team All-America honors. He was an integral part of Flyin’ Illini Final Four run in 1989. He scored 1,409 points in his career and ranks third on the Illini career steals list with 218.
Center Lowell Hamilton pulls down a rebound in a game against Purdue.
Illinois head coach Lou Henson walks from the court hand in hand with players Kenny Battle, left, and Nick Anderson following their 83-69 victory over Louisville in NCAA action in the Metrodome, March 25, 1989.
Stephen Bardo pulls down a rebound as Illini teammate Marcus Liberty looks on in the background.
Illinois' Marcus Liberty battles a Northwestern foe for a rebound.
Lou Henson's legendary career spanned 41 years at three programs and he stands as the winningest coach at both New Mexico State and Illinois. During his legendary 21-year career in charge of the Orange and Blue, Henson amassed a 423-224 record, highlighted by 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, a total of 15 postseason bids, and eleven 20-win seasons. Illinois basketball was one of the nation's most dominant programs during Henson's tenure, earning a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament seven straight years from 1984 through 1990. Henson's Illini won the 1984 Big Ten Championship and advanced to the Elite Eight. His most successful season came with the Flyin' Illini, who won a then-school record 31 games and advanced to the 1989 NCAA Final Four. Henson ranks fifth all-time among Big Ten coaches in both total wins (423) and conference wins (214). In all, Henson won 779 games; ranking 16th on the all-time NCAA wins list, and 11th all-time among coaches with at least 10 years spent in Division I. He is one of only four coaches in NCAA history to record 200-plus wins at two Division I schools, totaling 423 at Illinois and 289 at New Mexico State. He also stands as one of just 14 coaches to lead two different teams to the Final Four. Henson was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015 and the playing floor at State Farm Center was officially dedicated as Lou Henson Court on Dec. 2, 2015. Lou and Mary Henson currently reside in Champaign.
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25