Nick Irvin knows Ayo Dosunmu as well as anyone.
So when the current Western Illinois assistant coach and man who guided Morgan Park to back-to-back state championships with the Chicago Bulls’ recent draft pick as his leader is asked for his scouting report, his words matter.
“They’re definitely getting a winner that loves to play the game of basketball, that embraces where he’s from and a kid that’s willing to learn and put in the work to be great,” Irvin said in a Zoom conversation with NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s very coachable, humble. He don’t mind you telling him what’s real, what’s right, what needs to be done.
“He’s just a student of the game. He loves watching film, breaking down film. There’s many a time I called him and screenshot him and said, ‘You should’ve attacked this gap.’ And he’d say, ‘OK, I’m on it.’”
But better yet, Irvin said Dosunmu also knows how to fit into a team, how to play a role. He pointed to the examples when Dosunmu assimilated his game to accommodate Adam Miller’s transfer to Morgan Park for Dosunmu’s senior season.
Another state championship followed.
“He’s very professional on and off the court,” Irvin said. “He knows how to present himself. He knows what to do and what not to do.”
Like many people, Irvin credited Dosunmu’s family for providing the foundation for success. Dosunmu’s father, Quam, quit his job as a UPS manager after almost 30 years to work in education, freeing up more time to work out and coach his son. His mother, Jamarra, raised Dosunmu, his two sisters and a brother with goals and inclusiveness.
“I got to start with the Mom first. I call her ‘Ms. Jam.’ She’s an unbelievable person who wants the best for her baby. But one thing about her: She’s going to tell him what’s right and what’s wrong. It was a few times where she was like, ‘Nick, you got to get on him.’ I said, ‘I’m just getting him. I don’t want to go in on him too much.’ She said, ‘We brought him with you, right?’ From that day on, I just turned it up on him,” Irvin said. “It wouldn’t be Ayo without her. He listens to everything she’s saying. And she means everything she says. And the Dad, he’s a worker. He knows what it is to grind and know what it is to be there for his child.”
Playing for the hometown franchise is a challenge. Different players have handled the situation differently. Derrick Rose embraced it. Eddy Curry initially did as well but ultimately admitted that it wore on him.
“I think he’ll handle it phenomenal because he’s been here. He never really left. He knows what Chicago basketball is about. It’s a blue-collar city. He knows what the grind is. He knows what it takes to be successful here. He got a lot of family here. He gets it,” Irvin said. “I think it will be good for the Bulls and for him. You got a hometown guy who loves it. You got parents who won’t let him fall off. He got me, my brothers in the background. He’s got his uncles, his sisters and his brother. He got a great foundation with him that won’t let him fall off and understand, ‘Yeah, you’re in Chicago. But you gotta do a job now.’ It will never be a distraction with him because his foundation won’t let that happen.
“And he loves Derrick Rose. He’s a big fan. He’s been watching him since high school. Derrick is an icon of Chicago. His legacy in Chicago... Ayo is going to take pieces of what he did in Chicago and how he embraced it. He might reach out to him and ask him how he handled it with the ticket situation and a lot of guys reaching out for him. And Derrick will probably give him some great advice with it.”
Irvin attended Dosunmu’s draft watch party last Thursday. He admitted the Illinois All-American had hoped to be a first-round pick, even calling him “a lottery talent.” But Irvin said the jubilation of being drafted by the hometown franchise eased the sting.
“As long as you get your name called, that’s what it’s all about. Whether you go first or second round, you still got prove yourself and be professional with it,” Irvin said. “Yes, he wanted to be a first-rounder. But that’s motivation for him. I know how he thinks and works. And I know how the foundation around him works. Work don’t stop. You gotta go take your chance anyway.
“He’s all about winning. He’s all about team. He’s all about helping other players succeed. He doesn’t get caught up in, ‘I’m the guy.’ That’s when I knew he’d be a great pro.”