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Dosunmu First Illini Drafted in Nine Years | A Closer Look

Sometime on Thursday night Ayo Dosunmu is going to hear his name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the 2021 NBA Draft and one of Dosunmu’s biggest childhood dreams is going to come to light.

“It will be a great day for whatever organization takes,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said on Wednesday. “I firmly believe that his best days – I look at his growth from his weight gain to the way his game has developed, I describe Ayo as the ultimate winner, that’s all he’s done in high school, in helping us and playing a major role in building this, he just wins – his days are in front of him. Some team is going to be ecstatic.”

Dosunmu First Illini Drafted in 9 Years

Barring a crazy change in his draft standing, Dosunmu is going to be the first Illini player drafted since Meyers Leonard went 11th overall to the Portal Trailblazers in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Many expected Dosunmu’s name to be called in the 2020 NBA Draft, but his decision to return to Illinois for a junior season helped his draft stock. A year ago, many mock drafts had Dosunmu slotted to go between 35-55 in the second round.

After one of the best individual seasons in Illinois history in which he averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from three, Dosunmu is expected to be a top-35 pick by nearly every mock draft entering Thursday night.

“Good things should happen to good people and good things should happen to the people that work really hard and Ayo’s to be rewarded for that,” Underwood said. “He’s a wonderful young man, wonderful family.”

There have been few players in the last 20 years to put on an Illini basketball jersey and have the gravitational pull that Dosunmu did in his three years wearing a No. 11 jersey in Champaign.

Dosunmu’s decision to take a chance on a struggling Illini program as a top-50 recruit and turning it into one seed in the NCAA Tournament left a forever impact on Illinois basketball. When Silver says his name during the Draft on Thursday night it’s only going to have a deeper impact on the program.

“Ayo’s a guy we use on so many fronts as an example,” Underwood said. “As a guy who did it the right way. As a guy who continued to work, develop and grow. As a guy who took pride in winning. A guy who wasn’t afraid to take a chance and come to a program that was struggling at the time and he’s one of the most confident, he has tremendous swagger.”

Draft Night Plans

Dosunmu wasn’t invited by the NBA to attend Draft festivities in Brooklyn on Thursday night, so he instead is watching the Draft on TV with his family and many of his former teammates and coaches at his Chicago home.

“It’s a pretty fun, pretty enjoyable experience,” Underwood said of being in an NBA Draft party. “You’re talking childhood dreams, a financial reward that is put in place. It becomes a pretty emotional moment. You want good things to happen to good people and that’s what makes the moment so special.”

Dosunmu’s legacy is already set in stone at Illinois and it’s going to be remembered forever inside State Farm Center.

“His jersey is going to hang in the rafters, so nobody is going to forget him and it’s just very rewarding, as a coach, to see a guy who is going to succeed for basketball,” Underwood said. “It paid for his education and it’s going to give him an opportunity. His hard work is going to be rewarded.”

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