CHICAGO – He may have expected to go a little higher in the draft, and the Bulls were thinking the same.
Ayo Dosunmu was thought to be a first round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, but he ended up sliding down to the second round.
“I know I’m a first-round talent, but you can never control what God has planned for you,” said the Chicago native and former Illinois guard on Thursday.
But that would end up turning out to be a good thing for the Chicago native, as his path to professional basketball led home.
The Chicago native, former Morgan Park High School and Illini star was selected by the Bulls with the 38th overall pick in the draft late Thursday night. He was the Bulls’ only selection of the night after they traded away their first round selection to Orlando in the NIkola Vucevic trade in March.
Surrounded by family, friends, former coaches and teammates, Dosunmu celebrated the moment at a draft party in Chicago. He becomes the first Chicago native to be drafted by the Bulls since Derrick Rose was selected first overall in the 2008 NBA Draft.
“It was an unreal feeling,” said Dosunmu to reporters after getting drafted. “I was very excited. This was a milestone that I’ve been working on my entire life.”
A two-time IHSA state champion at Morgan Park High School, Dosunmu was a first team All-State selection by numerous publications and was on the Team USA U-18 team that won the FIBA Americas championship. He then spent three memorable years at Illinois, where he helped to turn around a program that had been stuck in mediocrity for the better part of a decade.
Dosunmu made the All-Big Ten freshman team in 2019 and was an All-Big Ten first team selection in his sophomore year of 2020, when he would have led Illinois to it’s first NCAA Tournament in seven years had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic.
After initially putting his name in for the draft, Dosunmu decided to return to Champaign for his junior season in the summer of 2020. Over that fall and winter, the guard was one of the best players in the country, averaging 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per contest.
Leading a strong supporting cast, Dosunmu helped Illinois to a Big Ten Tournament championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, a first for the school in 16 years. While the Illini were upset in the second round by Loyola, Dosunmu was named the program’s first consensus first team All-American while also winning the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard.
That resume along with this experience stuck out to Karnisova, who told reporters on Thursday that he didn’t believe Dosunmu would still be around when the Bulls made their only pick on the night. But it was Dosunmu’s interview with the team at the NBA Combine that sold the team on selecting him when he was available at No. 38.
“I’m sure he was expecting to go higher, so he’s going to be motivated to come and work hard here,” said Karnisovas. That’s what we expect from him when he comes.”
Even if getting Dosunmu to the Bulls wasn’t what he nor the player himself expected.