Illinois continues to deal with the possibility of needing to replace Kofi Cockburn this offseason.

The star big man had been investigating the NBA Draft process after a strong sophomore season. Cockburn has since returned to college but where he plays in 2021-22 remains up in the air. He entered the transfer portal and withdrew from the 2021 Draft.

Head coach Brad Underwood addressed that situation recently. He recognized the new reality of the transfer portal in college sports. However, he is also hopeful that Cockburn may wind up back in Champaign for another season.

“It is the new reality,” Underwood said Monday, according to Jeremy Werner with the Illini Inquirer. “We’re going to have to do that every year. It’s different. It’s challenging from the sense that I’m always going to be a kind heart in what I want what’s best for young people. I obviously believe that winning is really hard, so you got to have people who are just as committed as you. We’re in a world where players have options, and they’re going to look at all those options, and so we accept that and we’re going to have to adapt to that.”

Underwood went on to say that Cockburn “is our player until he isn’t.”

There’s no questioning the impact of Cockburn’s looming decision. He averaged 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks while helping the Illini secure a No. 1 seed.