No. 11 Illinois will be without preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Kofi Cockburn for its first three games of the season while the star big man sits because of an NCAA suspension. Cockburn sold "institutionally issued apparel and memorabilia" in June before it was permissible to do so under NIL guidelines, according to a statement from Illinois.

Under the terms of the suspension, Cockburn will repay the amount he gained from the apparel sales through a charitable donation. The Illini open against Jackson State on Nov. 9 and and play Arkansas State on Nov. 12. Illinois should be able to handle those opponents without Cockburn, who averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds last season. But Illinois' third game against Marquette on Nov. 15 could be a challenge. After serving the suspension, Cockburn will be eligible to make his season debut in the Illini's game vs. Cincinnati on Nov. 22 in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

"We are disappointed with the three-game suspension, because there were unprecedented factors that altered timelines related to his decision to ultimately withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said in a statement. "Once Kofi had a full understanding of where he stood regarding the draft, he made an educated decision to return to school, work toward his degree, and continue improving his game. That said, we understand and respect the NCAA's decision in this matter, and we will move forward accordingly. As always, Kofi's attitude and outlook remain upbeat and positive. He is focused on helping his teammates prepare for the season, and we can't wait to have him rejoin us on the court."

Cockburn announced in mid-June that he would return for his junior season with Illinois after initially indicating that he planned to pursue a professional career. The seven-footer also entered the transfer portal before deciding to join the Illini. He is a CBS Sports preseason first-team All-American.