Ayo Dosunmu made no secret about it: Being named to the 2022 Rising Stars roster was on his rookie year bucket list.
"That’s just something that, as a competitor, you always want to try to put yourself in a position to be in those type of games," he said after the Chicago Bulls' Monday afternoon practice. "I’d be lying to you if I told you I wouldn’t want to have my name in that conversation."
On Tuesday, he got his wish by being selected as one of 12 rookies for the exhibition, which will take place on the Friday of All-Star weekend (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. CT).
Dosunmu is the 17th player in Bulls history to be selected for the Rising Stars challenge, and the first since Wendell Carter Jr. during the 2019-20 season. The 38th pick in the 2021 draft, Dosunmu is averaging 7.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 52.9 percent and 42.2 percent from 3-point range in 45 NBA appearances.
But with Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso recently undergoing respective surgeries, the Bulls' rookie has turned increased opportunity into even better production. In his last nine games — all starts — Dosunmu is averaging 12.7 points, 6.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 37.6 minutes per game.
"He's just an eager guy to learn and get better," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of Dosunmu ahead of Tuesday's home matchup with the Magic. "You see levels of inconsistency, and then when there is inconsistency, I think you see growth and improvement."
The Rising Stars challenge boasts a new format this season, with four seven-player teams — comprised of 12 rookies, 12 second-years and four G League Ignite players — competing in a three-game tournament. Each of those teams will be drafted by a member of the NBA's 75th anniversary list, and each of those contests will have a target score:
Dosunmu's inclusion means that at least three Bulls players will represent the franchise at All-Star weekend Cleveland. DeMar DeRozan has already been voted an All-Star starter, and Zach LaVine is a lock to be a reserve selection when those are announced on Feb. 3. Donovan and the rest of his staff would also fly in to coach one of the two All-Star teams if the Bulls hold the Eastern Conference's top record on Feb. 6.
But Dosunmu selection is especially significant. On top of it marking the second-round pick breaking into the league's top 12 rookies, him being in attendance for All-Star weekend offers another development opportunity.
"I think, knowing him, he'd probably try to take something from it and try to learn something from it," Donovan said. "That will always be something that he will always do. It's just kind of who he is as a person."
And it's a big part of why his rookie season has been so successful.