Photo courtesy of Illinois athletics
Illinois basketball just wrapped up one of the most memorable regular seasons in recent memory.
The Fighting Illini finished with their highest winning percentage (.769) since the 2005-06 season (.788). The Illini finished with the most Quad 1 wins in the country with nine, going 9-5 in those games. Realistically, Illinois should have finished the regular season as Big Ten champions, but that’s a whole different conversation.
This is the most complete team that the Illini have had in years. This is actually the first time 15 years that the Illini have two players on the All-Big Ten first team.
Ayo Dosumnu and Kofi Cockburn are the first pair of Illini teammates to receive that distinction since Dee Brown and James Augustine during the 2005-06 season. It wouldn’t have been possible without some of the best players in the conference. Here we’ll take a look into some of the awards won by members of the Illini.
After getting looked over for the Big Ten All-Defensive team last year, Trent Frazier finally earned that honor. He usually has the task of guarding the opposing team’s best guard game-in and game-out. He’s done a fantastic job all season long. Some of the players he’s locked down this season include Marcus Carr, Mike Smith, Teddy Allen, Jordan Bohannon, Rob Phinisee, and so on.
Frazier also made All-Big Ten honorable mention team after averaging 10.6 points and 2.6 assists. It was nice to see Frazier score again this year after taking the backseat the past few years after his freshman season.
There aren’t enough good things to say about Frazier. He’s always done what he’s been asked to do. These past few seasons, he hasn’t needed to score as much, so he picked it up on the defensive end.
Frazier has the option of coming back for one more year because of COVID-19, but if he doesn’t, he was an outstanding 4-year player at Illinois.
On Tuesday, Curbelo was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team as well as being named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year. Coming into this season, many Illinois fans probably thought that this would be Adam Miller.
That’s definitely not a knock on Miller, who had a fantastic freshman year himself. It goes to show just how great Curbelo really played this year. He is the first Illini player to ever win the Sixth Man of the Year Award in the Big Ten.
Curbelo keeps the streak of Illini on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team going at four straight seasons. The prior three for Illini on this team were Cockburn, Dosumnu and Frazier.
Curbelo is averaging 8.8 points and 4.2 assists per game so far this year. Although he only plays around 20 minutes per game, he ranks sixth in the conference for assists per game.
The other five in front of him? All starting point guards for the respective teams.
The future for Curbelo is bright and only getting brighter.
Kofi Cockburn was a monster this year. He ranks second in the country this year with 15 double-doubles. The next closest Big Ten player would be Iowa’s Luka Garza, with 12. Cockburn just missed out on averaging a double-double this regular season, tallying 17.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Not only was he dominant on the offensive end of the court, but on the defensive side as well. Most recently, he shut down Michigan’s star big man, Hunter Dickinson. Cockburn doesn’t get enough credit for his defense. Since he learned to stay down on shot fakes, he’s gotten much better on that side of the floor.
Cockburn was awarded with a selection to the All-Big Ten first team. On top of that, he was also selected as a Sporting News second-team All-American. Cockburn more than deserves these awards.
Illinois isn’t as good without him. He may not be the best player on his own team, but take Cockburn away from the Illini and they struggle big-time down low.
Whether you think this it was the right decision or not, Ayo Dosumnu didn’t win Big Ten Player of the Year. You could make a case for Garza stat-wise, without a doubt. He’s a fantastic player himself.
However, Dosumnu was the most clutch player in college basketball this year. He helped Illinois edge out wins at the end of regulation this year against Ohio, Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Ohio State.
Although he didn’t win Player of the Year, he was awarded with a selection to the All-Big Ten first team by a unanimous decision. Dosumnu is the first player in the last 11 seasons to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists per game. The last player to do that was Evan Turner, who won National Player of the Year for Ohio State.
Dosunmu was also selected as a Sporting News first-team All-American. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dosunmu was one of the best players in all of college basketball this season.
Dosumnu did one thing that most players from Chicago rarely consider. He stayed home.
Most of the state’s best players leave for the blue bloods such as Duke and Kentucky. Instead, Dosumnu stayed home to turn around his home state program. After going 12-21 during his freshman year, he’s leaving Champaign with a 20-6 regular season record. Dosunmu will go down as one of the greatest Illini players ever, and he can leave while saying “mission accomplished.”