Ayo Dosunmu’s basketball story might as well be fiction.
The top-ranked recruit in the state of Illinois made a decision to stay home back in 2018. Arriving on the University of Illinois campus, Dosunmu was tasked with bringing a struggling college program back to national prominence. The mission looked impossible after a 12-21 campaign kicked off his college career. But, in true Ethan Hunt move-magic fashion, Dosunmu got the job done.
Over the next two seasons, Dosunmu helped the Fighting Illini win 45-combined games. Illinois became Big Ten Tournament champions and reclaimed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. Aside from a longer tournament run, Dosunmu probably couldn’t have written a better script … and then draft night happened.
Widely expected to be a first-round pick after a high-profile college career, Dosunmu listened to the broadcast announce 37 different names before his own. It was a dramatic plummet, but one that he called destiny after landing with his hometown team.
As he heads toward his sophomore season, Dosunmu told ESPN 1000’s Waddle & Silvy that he still can’t believe how things went down that day:
“No,” Dosunmu said when asked if he thought playing in Chicago was a possibliltiy. “I always tell people, if I had to do a mock draft before the draft, the Bulls would have probably been one of the teams I least expected.”
Dosunmu followed up his tears of joy with a rookie season that proved 29 other NBA teams wrong. He became a vital role player to the winningest Chicago team since 2014-15, even starting 40 games in relief of starting point guard Lonzo Ball.
Whether it be shutting down Trae Young, posterizing the Indiana Pacers or sinking a half-court buzzer-beater, Dosunmu played like a 10-year vet in the body of a 22-year-old. Not only did it lead to an appearance at the Rising Stars Game at All-Star Weekend, but it earned him a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team.
Indeed, Dosunmu was the lowest-selected player to receive such an honor this season, serving as yet another reminder of how much more respect he deserved in the pre-draft process.
“I wouldn’t say I’m angry because I’m blessed with the position that I’m in,” Dosunmu told Waddle & Silvy about falling down the draft board. “But, definitely, I would say angry and motivated because I thought that I was better than where I was drafted. But I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in now, playing for my hometown.”
Dosunmu has claimed many times that the No. 38 will be a motivating force for years to come. In fact, he might have already put the thought of the number to good use this summer, as he told ESPN 1000 that he added roughly 5-6 lbs of muscle.
Look, Dosunmu may not be the most talented young player in the league, but he may well have one of the best stories. He’s a player who continues to put himself in the right place at the right time, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what his next chapter has in store.