A “dream come true.” A “blessing.” An “unreal feeling.”
There were simultaneously too many and not enough words for Ayo Dosunmu to explain the sensation of being drafted to his hometown Chicago Bulls in the second round of Thursday’s NBA Draft.
“God wanted me to play for my city,” the Chicago native said, answering a question about him falling out of the draft’s first round and to the Bulls’ selection at 38. “So that’s what I’m going to do.”
In some respects, Dosunmu already has.
After transferring as a sophomore in high school, he starred at Morgan Park for three seasons, leading the Mustangs to state titles as a junior and senior. Then, he won the hearts of basketball fans across the state with an ascendant three-year run at the University of Illinois that culminated in a sublime 2020-21 campaign, in which he earned consensus first-team All-American honors and the Illini seized a Big Ten Tournament title.
“I’m a totally different player right now than I was then,” Dosunmu said of his growth from high school to draft night. “At Illinois, I got bigger, stronger, faster and I pretty much got better at every category of my game in those three years. So I’m excited for the next level. I’m excited for the next challenge.”
That next challenge will involve establishing himself in the best league in the world — and doing so in the city that raised him, for the team for which he’s long rooted.
“I grew up watching Chicago every day. Every day, every game, I watched the games. Stacey King, all the announcers, I really enjoyed watching the Bulls,” he said. “So now me being a part of this journey, it’s just another step in the road.”
Executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas mentioned as much in his own post-draft press conference, remembering aloud that Dosunmu spoke of being a die-hard Bulls fan at their NBA Draft Combine interview.
That doesn’t mean it’s all roses. Dosunmu stressed multiple times he sees himself as a “first-round talent” far above the 38th-best player in the draft. That boulder on his shoulder will follow him.
But if there’s a place for a player to assert oneself, it might as well be at home.
“I definitely do feel overlooked, but at the same time I’m enjoying my blessing,” he said. “Right now I’m just enjoying that moment and me being able to play for my home city, my family being able to come to my games and playing in an arena that I really stayed in and watched growing up at a young age. That’s very monumental to me.
“But at the same time I definitely have a chip on my shoulder and 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.”