Michigan Basketball: Kofi Cockburn returns to Illinois, Dug McDaniel shines

Checking in on some Michigan basketball news: Kofi Cockburn announces his return, plus 2022 commit Dug McDaniel balls out. 

After a fascinating saga and a very real flirtation with Kentucky, Illinois center Kofi Cockburn announced that he would return to the Fighting Illini for the 2021-22 season.

Cockburn was an All-American last year and having that kind of player leave one program for another is extremely rare. And in the end, Cockburn ended up being the rare transfer portal player who wound up back at his original school.

For Michigan basketball, this is obviously significant. Cockburn helped lead Illinois to a win over the Wolverines last season and helped the Illini win the Big Ten tournament.

The Big Ten was already going to be loaded with Michigan basketball returning Hunter Dickinson, Eli Brooks, and others, as well as Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan State all considered title contenders along with Maryland too.

With Cockburn back, Jon Rothstein moved Illinois up to No. 8 in his preseason rankings for 2021-22. It’s been an up-and-down offseason for the Illini, but it couldn’t finish much better than having Kofi return.

Ayo Dosunmu is gone to the NBA and Adam Miller left for the portal. So Illinois probably would haven’t been considered nearly as strong a contender in the league without Cockburn as it will be now, especially with the way he was able to defend Hunter Dickinson a year ago.

Defending the Big Ten regular-season title was always going to be tough for Michigan basketball but in light of today’s news, it just got even tougher.

Michigan basketball recruiting news

It was another day for live evaluations on the recruiting trail and Michigan basketball commit, Dug McDaniel, put together an impressive performance according to Jake Weingarten of Stockrisers.

McDaniel isn’t the biggest point guard at 5-foot-10 but he’s dynamic and extremely quick. He scored 20 points, dished out three assists, and was 3-for-4 from 3-point range.

It’s something to monitor because shooting is the skill that could make or break McDaniel’s career with the Wolverines. If he can be a consistent 3-point shooter, he’ll be deadly.

This was on the heels of McDaniel scoring 12.7 points, dishing five assists, and getting 4.3 steals per game according to UMHoops.com during his first three games of the Peach Jam in the EYBL. Here’s a link for his complete highlights.

For me, the more I watch Dug play, the more I love his fit for Ann Arbor. In the highlights by UMHoops, you can see McDaniel in a bunch of ball-screen situations and he winds up hitting a bunch of jumpers he’ll have to hit at Michigan to be effective.

It’s not just 3-pointers but floaters and other mid-range shots out of ball screens that he was routinely knocking down. And when players stepped under screens, he was showing the ability to make them pay.

I was also impressed with some of his finishes. He’s quick and even though he isn’t the tallest or biggest player in the world, he knows how to get his shot off. I love his playmaking ability but his scoring ability is impressive too.

And his transition to Juwan’s ball-screen heavy offense should be smooth.

In other 2022 recruiting news, potential target Issac Traudt (no offer yet) out of Nebraska had an impressive performance. Matt Em of mgoblog noted that Michigan was taking more of a wait-and-see approach with his recruitment and that he’s a Virginia lean:

“Traudt is considered a Virgina lean at this point in his recruitment, and Juwan Howard never made his way to metro-Atlanta to see him. Taking that into account, this is probably more of a wait-and-see recruitment as opposed to something you should be monitoring seriously. At least for now.”

Yet, if he keeps shooting the ball as well as he has been, Michigan basketball might wind up jumping in the with mix with an offer, especially as it seems like a sharpshooting four is becoming more and more likely to pair with possible 2022 center commit Tarris Reed.

Traudt is one to watch and it will be interesting to see how Michigan handles things with the rising prospect who is a lethal shooter.