Chicago Tribune

How a brother's devotion pushed Kofi Cockburn from Jamaica to the U.S., where he's now a freshman sensation for Illinois basketball

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - No matter where Nagash Cockburn went in Jamaica, little brother Kofi was his shadow.

When he played cards or video games with friends, when he ran an errand, when he watched "Pokemon" in his room - there was Kofi, 12 years younger but nearly as tall, hanging out with his brother.

Kofi wasn't just a tagalong. Nagash invited him.

"He loved me so much," Kofi recalled. "He would rather me be around him than go outside and be with the wrong crowd. Whenever I was around, he'd be so happy. He'd say, 'OK, come along.' "

It seemed inevitable that Kofi Cockburn (pronounced CO-burn) would eventually follow Nagash onto Kingston's basketball courts. By 14, he was already eye to eye with his 6-foot-7 big brother.

Kofi watched Nagash from the sideline, but he was more taken with soccer and track, both popular in Jamaica. Nagash was exasperated. Enough. Get on the court, Kofi.

"I'm like, 'Yo, how many tall soccer players do you know? And you're not Usain Bolt,' " Nagash said. "I wasn't trying to discourage him, but I had to be real. I saw a future he could create for himself."

Nagash didn't begin playing basketball until age 20, having devoted

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