Ayo Dosunmu said he talked to his fellow former University of Illinois great Deron Williams just over a week ago, checking in with someone who served as a mentor as Dosunmu navigated the 2021 predraft process that led to him being selected by his hometown Chicago Bulls.
Little did Dosunmu know then that he'd be reunited with the Illini great at All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City.
Named as an injury replacement for Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green, Dosunmu will make his second straight appearance in Friday's Jordan Rising Stars game, pitting some of the league's premier young talent against each other in an exhibition. Williams will coach Dosunmu.
"He gonna play me all the minutes," Dosunmu said, laughing. "Cool."
Dosunmu said he picked the brains of Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton, who coached him at last year's event. He's excited to renew his bond with Williams.
"It's a blessing anytime you get acknowledged," Dosunmu said of the honor. "Go down the list of the players who played in these games. There's a lot of great talent. For me to be chosen, of course I'm a competitor. I'm going to try to win. That's the main goal and also have fun. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be there."
Bulls legend Joakim Noah also will serve as a coach in the game, and DeMar DeRozan will attend All-Star weekend despite missing the final two games leading up to the event with a thigh strain. General manager Marc Eversley presented DeRozan and Dosunmu with a commemorative basketball at center court before Thursday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
"I never take it for granted," Dosunmu said. "Just trying to appreciate and soak in every moment. It's a blessing to be chosen. There's so much young talent in the NBA.
"I think around this time last year, I was pretty much under the radar. A lot of teams didn't have me on the scouting report. I was shocking a lot of people. And this year, I think that it's the opposite. Just me putting the work into my game, being more recognized. I'm stronger mentally and physically. I feel more comfortable on both ends of the court."