Ayo Dosunmu was the 38th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
But you can bet Ayo Dosunmu doesn’t believe he is the 38th-best player in the 2021 class.
“I know I’m a first-round talent,” the newly-selected Chicago Bulls combo guard said, via Zoom, just under an hour after his selection Thursday night. “But you can’t (ever know) what God has planned for you. And God wanted me to play for my city. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m embracing it. I’m grateful.”
Indeed, much of Dosunmu’s post-draft press conference centered on his excitement to play for his hometown team and counting blessings that his NBA dream is one step closer to being realized.
“It was an unreal feeling,” Dosunmu said, later adding he looks forward to friends and family attending his games.
But underlying that appreciation was an understanding that he spent nearly four hours of draft night, in his words, “overlooked” by the many in the league, and that a chip-on-the-shoulder approach will define his professional career.
“My friends and family know where my talent is. They know there wasn’t 37 people better than me in this draft,” Dosunmu said — tellingly, while answering a softball question on the raucous nature of his draft party after being selected. “When I was selected by Chicago, my home city, they knew the motivation I’m going to have, I’m going to play with...
“I am definitely going to go out there and prove that a lot of teams made a mistake. But Chicago, my home city, didn’t. So I am excited and I am looking forward to go out there and work.”
That jibes with the intangibles said to have permeated Dosunmu’s time with the University of Illinois. Executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas multiple times highlighted Dosunmu’s toughness and strong background as positive factors in his evaluation.
But that’s not all the Bulls see in their newest rookie. In addition to exceptional positional size — he stands 6-foot-5 with a 6-10 wingspan — and theoretical two-way versatility, Dosunmu improved every season of his collegiate career. In 2020-21, his junior year, he averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range.
All of those were career-best marks. And the 3-point percentage, an oft-parroted improvement area of his game, is nearly 10 points better than his 29.6 percent mark as a sophomore on similar volume.
“My playmaking ability, my energy, that’s all something I can translate to the next level. My scoring ability,” Dosunmu said. “I’m continuing to get better at all areas of my game.”
The Bulls hope that a player of that temperament makes for a worthy investment. And while Dosunmu no doubt spent part of the night basking in the blessed nature of his circumstance, a congratulatory text from Zach LaVine echoed the sentiments of both he and Karnišovas.
“Once I got drafted, Zach texted me and he said, ‘Congratulations, let’s get to work,’” Dosunmu said. “I know I’m going to mesh in well because I’m a competitor, and I know that I have good people skills.
“I’m just excited to get to work.”