Having lost two productive perimeter players at the end of the season in T.J. Price and Trency Jackson, Western Kentucky head coach Ray Harper added some depth to his backcourt Thursday afternoon. Aaron Cosby, who’s had stops at Seton Hall and Illinois, will join the program for his final season of eligibility according to Zach Greenwell of the Bowling Green Daily News.
Provided he go through with plans to complete his studies at Illinois Cosby will be eligible immediately for the Hilltoppers, who finished the 2014-15 season with a 20-12 record. In a conversation with Greenwell, Cosby cited his familiarity with Harper and the WKU program as reasons for his decision.
“Ultimately, the opportunity to go back home and play for guys that have known me since my freshman year of high school was big,” Cosby said. “They know my game. They saw me play AAU, prep school, high school. That was important.”
Expected to be part of the Illinois backcourt rotation after playing two seasons at Seton Hall, Cosby played in 19 games (starting 13) before being suspended indefinitely in late January for a violation of team rules. In February, head coach John Groce announced that Cosby would be leaving the program at the end of the season.
Cosby averaged 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the Fighting Illini but he didn’t shoot particularly well in doing so, making 29.3 percent of his shots from the field and 31.1 percent from beyond the arc. Cosby shot much better during his time at Seton Hall, shooting 37.7 percent from three as a freshman and 40 percent as a sophomore before deciding to transfer.
Provided he get back to the numbers he posted in his first college stop, Cosby can be a solid addition for the Hilltoppers alongside Chris Harrison-Docks, who averaged 11.1 points per game in 2014-15. Harrison-Docks, who began his career at Butler, is WKU’s leading returning scorer with forward George Fant joining Price and Jackson as players who have run out of eligibility.
In addition to Cosby, WKU will add junior college transfer Fredrick Edmond and freshmen Chris McNeal and Marlon Hunter Jr. to the perimeter this summer.
With Rayvonte Rice making his return from a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules in Illinois’ 64-52 win over Michigan February 12, there was still the matter of when redshirt junior guard Aaron Cosby would be reinstated. Cosby, who began his college career at Seton Hall, was suspended at the same time as Rice and was averaging 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the Fighting Illini.
Friday, it was announced that Cosby will not return to the program. In the statement this was termed as a “mutual decision” reached by Cosby and head coach John Groce , with Cosby expected to finish the semester before transferring to another school. Cosby, who’s on course to graduate this spring, would be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.
“After having further discussions with Aaron and evaluating the situation from both sides, he and I have mutually agreed that it is best to part ways,” Groce said in the release. “I enjoyed coaching Aaron and appreciate the contributions he made during his time here. I wish him success and will be rooting for him to have a great finish to his career.”
Illinois has solidified its perimeter rotation in recent weeks, with the suspensions meaning that sophomores Malcolm Hill, Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn received even more opportunities to make plays. Add in seniors Rice and Ahmad Starks, and the Fighting Illini are well-positioned from a depth standpoint.
And in regards to next season, Illinois adds four-star guards Jalen Coleman-Lands and Aaron Jordan, and four-star forward D.J. Williams. With those players joining Hill, Nunn and Tate, minutes likely would have been tough to come by for Cosby.
“I have a great relationship with my coaches and teammates here at Illinois, but feel it’s in my best interest to seek out a new opportunity,” Cosby said in the release. “I’m thankful for everyone in the program for their support and look forward to the next chapter in my basketball career.”
Illinois has been playing with a shortened back court for the last month, as leading scorer Rayvonte Rice and Aaron Cosby were both sidelined with injuries before the two were suspended.
During Friday’s teleconference, Illinois head coach John Groce provided no update on the status of either player heading into Saturday afternoon’s Big Ten game at Michigan State.
“They’re indefinitely suspended at this time,” was the response Groce used to answer questions regarding Rice and Cosby, according to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune.
Rice, the senior lead guard averaging 17.2 points per game, as been out since early January after breaking bone in his left hand during practice. The injury bug bit the Fighting Illini later in the month when Cosby was sidelined several weeks with a retinal tear in his left eye. The perimeter duo was suspended last Saturday for a violation of team rules. Neither player appeared in wins over Penn State and Rutgers this past week.
Since being injured both Rice and Cosby have returned to practice.
“At times we’ll pull them out here or there for different things,” Groce said, according to the Tribune. “Both guys are on track. From a medical perspective they look great. More than anything (it’s) trying to keep their cardio up.”
Illinois takes on Michigan State at noon.