Hometown star Ayo Dosunmu falls to Chicago Bulls in 2021 NBA Draft

The Morgan Park and University of Illinois star expected to picked in the first-round but called it a "blessing in disguise" to fall to the Bulls.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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He's a kid who's made Chicago proud, a multiple prep state champion who was named the nation's best collegiate point guard. And now he's a Chicago Bull.

No, it's not Derrick Rose.

But the Bulls Thursday in the NBA draft still got a good one with the 38th pick, Illinois' All-American Ayo Dosunmu.

"It was an unreal feeling," Dosunmu told Chicago media via Zoom about being selected by the Bulls. "I was very excited. This was a milestone that I've been working on my entire life. So that moment right there, that was my hard work. It came out.

"I know I'm a first-round talent," said Dosunmu, expected to be a late first round draft pick. "But you can't (ever know) what God has planned for you. And God wanted me to play for my city. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm embracing it. I'm grateful. I'm thankful to be in this position I'm in now. Now it's just about getting to work. I talked to Coach (Billy) Donovan. We had a great conversation. I'm obviously excited to work and be the best player I can be."

If slipping to the second round and a chance to play at home before family and friends for his boyhood team stirred mixed emotions, it was all upbeat for the Bulls to find a versatile and tough playmaking point guard in the second round of the draft. Perhaps the 6-5, 200-pound Dosunmu is not the ultimate answer to the team's need for a point guard. But he's at least competition to start as a big guard who defends well, is adept at pick and roll play and is an improved shooter up to almost 40 percent this season with Illinois.

"He does a little bit of everything," acknowledged Bulls Executive Vice-President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas. "He does a lot of scoring. He has five assists and six rebounds, steals. He's versatile, long, 6-10 wingspan, 6-5. So he has size. He's a combo guard. We rely on versatility and that's what we're looking forward to see. We like him as a player. He's a great young man. Had a great interview with us. Our group liked him just from the interview on top of how complete of a player he was.

Arturas Karnisovas speaks to the media following the 2021 NBA Draft

"He's going to come here with a chip on his shoulder," Karnisovas added. "We didn't expect him to be available at 38. I'm sure he was expecting to go higher. So he's going to be motivated to come and work hard here. That's what we expect from him when he comes."

It looks like a draft win for the Bulls, who didn't have a first round selection after trading it to Orlando as part of the Nikola Vucevic deal. The Magic used the pick, which was No. 8, for Michigan forward Franz Wagner.

Dosunmu, 21, was one of the most celebrated players in the Big 10—two-time first team—if not also the nation. The junior averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists last season in leading Illinois to the Big 10 title and being named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Masked from a broken nose late in the season, his profile only increased nationally during the tournament until a surprising loss to Loyola in the NCAA tournament. Dosunmu then declared for the NBA draft.

Though he was respected for making big shots and being the team leader, pro scouts scrutinizing Dosunmu questioned his shot. It's a bit slow and comes from low at times. He also could be somewhat loose with the ball with a high turnover rate. Though the older players get in college, generally the lower their draft rating becomes as teams generally are searching for the so called "high ceiling" star. Dosunmu doesn't project that way, but few players do. And once you get to the NBA, it's about making plays, which Dosunmu showed he can do fearlessly and with flair.

Ayo Dosunmu shoots a free throw while at Illinois

Dosunmu averaged 20 points per game, six rebounds, and five assists during his final season at Illinois.

He is an excellent transition player with impressive acceleration. He was one of the nation's leading scorers in transition points. Though he appears awkward at times with the ball in a herky-jerky kind of way, he's clever at beating defenders with various crossover and hesitation moves. He was adept throwing lobs to teammate Kofi Cockburn and could drive and make the corner three pass well. He's also considered a good defender.

So how could he end up 38th?

Pro scouts worried about his shot since opponents often went under against him on screens. And then there was the pressure Loyola played against him that was effective, which Dosunmu dismissed as an aberration. Dosunmu expects he'll produce some regrets.

"I definitely do feel overlooked," Dosunmu admitted. "But at the same time I'm enjoying my blessing. I don't want to (block) my blessing; there's a time for that, definitely. Right now I'm just enjoying that moment and me being able to play for my home city, my family being able to come to my games and playing in an arena that I really stayed in and watched growing up at a young age. That's very monumental to me. But at the same time, I definitely have a chip on my shoulder and I am definitely going to go out there and prove that a lot teams made a mistake. But Chicago, my home city, didn't. So I am excited and I am looking forward to go out there and work.

"I can't really explain how I'm feeling right now," Dosunmu added. "I got to just let it die down. I grew up watching Chicago every day. Every day, every game. Stacey King, all the announcers, I really enjoyed watching the Bulls. So now me being a part of this journey, it's just another step in the road. I'm excited to embrace it."

Ayo Dosunmu speaks to the Chicago media after being drafted by the Bulls.

His full name is Quamdeen Ayo Dosunmu. He is the youngest of four children of parents from Nigeria of the Yoruba population. In the Yoruba language, Quamdeen means "go forward" and "Ayo" means "joy." That sounds a lot like the way the hard working, relentless Dosunmu leads his life. Chicago personality Chance the Rapper stopped by Dosunmu's draft party for family and friends Thursday night and Dosunmu said he also got a message from Bulls star Zach LaVine in Japan for the Olympics. His Bulls connections are strong since he also played with Bulls guard Coby White on the U-18 team in international competition.

Dosunmu became a Chicago basketball prodigy as a freshman at Westinghouse with a 40-point game against Crane before transferring to Morgan Park as a sophomore. He led Morgan Park to state championships his last two years before going to Illinois. He was one of the Big 10's top freshman and by sophomore year was making clutch plays for the Illini. He had multiple triple doubles last season and then, after sustaining a broken nose in a February loss to Michigan State, returned with his Lone Ranger mask. Dosunmu called himself with the mask "the Masked Mamba" in tribute to Kobe Bryant and famously copied a Bryant restroom pose with the trophy after Illinois won the Big 10 title.

Dosunmu said Chance reached out to him after a game last season to thank him for representing the city so well. Dosunmu can't wait to continue that role for the Bulls.

"To see my growth, continuing to grow, it's always exciting," Dosunmu said. "At Illinois, I got bigger, stronger, faster and I pretty much got better at every category of my game in those three years. So I'm excited for the next level. I'm excited for the next challenge.

"My playmaking ability, my energy, that's all something I can translate to the next level. my scoring ability," Dosunmu said. "I'm continuing to get better at all areas of my game. Right now, all rookies are on an even playing field. It's a whole different world that we're getting ready to get into. Coach Donovan said that he saw one of my games in the Big Ten Tournament. He was actually very surprised that I fell to there. But he said he's excited for me to get there and work. He said he feels I'm a competitor. I think I fit in well with the team. Being out there and being a guard who can make reads, who can create for myself, make opportunities for my teammates and just go out there and be a complete player. That's what I'm excited to do. I played on the USA team with Coby White. Once I got drafted, Zach texted me and he said, ‘Congratulations, let's get to work.' I know I'm going to mesh in well because I'm a competitor and I know that I have good people skills. I'm excited to get to work.

"My friends and family know where my talent is," Dosunmu said. "They know there wasn't 37 people better than me in this draft. So when I was selected by Chicago, my home city, they knew the motivation I'm going to have, I'm going play with. I'm going to enjoy it to my home city. It's like a dream come true. This is a blessing in disguise. So when they called my name and my family found out we were excited. It's a great feeling."

Dosunmu endured the thorns of defeat and disappointment to close his collegiate career and, in effect, be introduced the NBA.

And now he and the Bulls may just come out smelling like a rose.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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