BOSTON — Early in training camp, DeMar DeRozan volunteered to reporters how many questions Ayo Dosunmu asked.
So, no, the fact the rookie from Morgan Park High School and University of Illinois has cracked the Chicago Bulls' rotation isn’t surprising to the 13-year veteran.
Nor is what Dosunmu did Monday night, scoring a season-high 14 points in a season-high 22 minutes without missing a shot, including the 3-pointer that pushed the Bulls ahead midway through the fourth after trailing by 19.
“It’s not surprising,” DeRozan said. “I remember watching him in college and the toughness that he brought. Joining a team and getting to know him, his personality, the humbleness that he carries himself with along with the toughness, it’s definitely one of a kind. He’s definitely the epitome of a Chicago kid.”
Billy Donovan, too, cited Dosunmu’s makeup, calling it “special.” And what’s not to like? For a rookie who first surprisingly fell to the second round of the draft and now has quickly planted himself in the coach’s trust circle and rotation, the arrow is pointing way up.
“He's got a certain kind of makeup that I think is really special,” Donovan said. “He's ultra-competitive and he has unbelievable confidence and belief in himself. But it's not cross-the-line arrogant. That's really a hard combination.
“He just is fearless. And he’s got a way about him with the way he competes defensively. He’s not afraid.”
As impressive as Dosunmu’s stat line was, it’s the work ethic and attention to detail that is standing out to coaches and teammates.
Here’s a player who didn’t shoot an open shot as Derrick Rose closed out on him in the loss to the Knicks, forcing Alex Caruso to take a worse shot to avoid a shot clock violation. Dosunmu watched film on that, listened to coaches telling him to step into the next open shot and then hit that huge 3-pointer.
Or a player who had displayed some difficulty finishing early in the season as he tried to understand how much more defensive length existed at the NBA level. So he watched film on that and, lo and behold, scored over Al Horford on Monday with a crafty, spinning shot.
“One thing I really love about the NBA is how quick coaches are there to help you make corrections,” Dosunmu said.
On the night, Dosunmu scored on three layups, a runner in the lane and two catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.
“I think I’m a completely different player from Summer League,” Dosunmu said. “Going through training camp and practices, guarding the guys on the team, gaining knowledge, learning each day. My thing is, I want to get better each day. If it’s 1 percent, 0.1 percent, I want to get better each day. So that’s what I pride myself on.”
You can hear the basketball IQ in Dosunmu when he talks about being in a different role than when he was starring for the Fighting Illini. There, he demanded the defensive attention. Now he knows that falls on DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević.
So now that he’s running some with at least one starter that Donovan staggers with the reserve unit, he’s studying ways to be ready for catch-and-shoot opportunities off the ball. Or a quick drive once one of the primary options attacks and kicks out a pass.
“I know how to get in the right spots and shoot,” Dosunmu said.
Donovan noted how Dosunmu has hit game-winning shots to end scrimmages in practices. That’s the fearlessness at work.
The timidness Dosunmu flashed at times during Summer League has been replaced by tenacity. He’s not going anywhere. He’s not backing down.
“That just comes from how I was raised. I always put the work in and just believe,” Dosunmu said. “My motto is just fear God. So I don’t fear anything but God. I pray. My parents always guided me the right way. My grandparents lean on me, giving me good guidance. When I compete, I trust in what I can do.
“I knew what I was capable of doing. I like taking it day by day, brick by brick. Never get too high. Never get too low. Understand what my capabilities are and what I can bring to this team. I’m pretty confident in myself. But at the same I gotta ask a lot of questions. Got cool vets. Got a lot of advice. Watch a lot of film. It’s just helping me go out and play confident.”