Preps Talk

How two-a-days and a refined jumper helped Ayo Dosunmu make the USA Basketball U18 team

How two-a-days and a refined jumper helped Ayo Dosunmu make the USA Basketball U18 team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo -- Ayo Dosunmu wasn't satisfied after his senior season ended at Morgan Park.

Although the 6-foot-4 guard won another Class 3A state championship to close out a storied IHSA career, the work before heading to play college basketball at Illinois was just getting started.

With invitations to prestigious April all-star events like the Jordan Brand Classic and the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic, Dosunmu wanted to be ready to face the best players in his class in front of national scouts and NBA personnel. 

Waking up at 5:30 a.m. every morning and working out at the Kroc Center on the South Side, Dosunmu and his father, Quam, would focus on his body prior to attempting around 300 jumpers all before school started at Morgan Park at 7:30 a.m. every morning.

Then the phone call came.

USA Basketball invited Dosunmu to tryout for the U18 national team that would play for a gold medal in FIBA Americas held in Canada this June. 

That's when the two-a-days started. 

With the morning plan staying the same, Dosunmu and his father added the afternoon workouts into the equation. When school let out each afternoon, Dosunmu would finish his homework and get in a nap before heading back to the Kroc Center for more lifting and jumpers around 6 p.m. 

Dosunmu made it a point to fix the inconsistent perimeter jumper that always seemed to pop up on his scouting report. After hearing from NBA scouts that he had a low release point on his jumper after the Jordan Brand Classic, the motivation to fix the jumper really kicked in.

The final part of the training was a 4.5 mile run every night. Quam would drop off his sons, Ayo and Kube, along with Ayo's best friend, Dre, at 55th Street right along the lake. From there, Quam drove north to the 31st Street beach and waited for the group to finish the run. Sometimes, Quam would park in different spots to add more distance.

The hard work, the two-a-days, and the refined jumper clearly paid off for Dosunmu. The former Morgan Park star was one of 12 players selected for the USA U18 team which will play in the FIBA Americas tournament that begins on Sunday.

Armed with the new-and-improved jumper and an added sense of confidence, Dosunmu was one of the breakout players during USA Basketball's training camp in Colorado Springs last week. One of the things scouts really noticed was the overhauled perimeter jumper.

"You don't often see an overhaul like that going into a freshman year," Mike Schmitz of ESPN's Draft Express said of Dosunmu. 

"It seems he's really changed his shot, that's really the biggest thing with him. He used to have such a low release. I think he's still working through that, in-game, from a release standpoint. But from an NBA perspective, he has the tools. I think it's just continuing to slow down and being a point guard."

Dosunmu's jumper used to have the low release and often didn't feature a refined follow through. While he could get by at the high school level because of his natural scoring acumen, high skill level and athleticism, Dosunmu's jumper was streaky.

Quam noticed a breakthrough right before Ayo left for Philadelphia and the Iverson Roundball Classic in late April. While father and son had worked hard on the perimeter jumper since sophomore year, Ayo took things very seriously upon receiving the NBA's feedback after early April in the Jordan Brand Classic.

Filming every shooting workout and watching over the film, Ayo started to see the differences in his jumper as it gradually got better.

"I didn't want to have defenders going under on screens and I'm missing. So I just went to the gym. And me and my dad, nobody there, and we just put up shots. He told me, 'don't worry about the misses, worry about the release point. Try to get it up and out,'" Ayo said. "So that's what I've been doing. Staying in the gym: shooting, shooting, shooting. After about a week and a half, I got more consistency with it. After two months, I started to get used to it. Now I can do moves and step backs and things like that."

With the improved jumper on display, Dosunmu let the rest of his all-around game speak for itself at the USA tryouts. Playing on and off the ball during tryouts, Dosunmu was able to facilitate out of high ball screens while also knocking down catch-and-shoot jumpers if he played off the ball.

Defensively, Dosunmu was a menace, often picking up opponents nearly the length of the floor and showing an intensity that many others in camp didn't have. While the thin air in Colorado Springs often does damage to first-timers like Dosunmu, the two-a-days and lakefront runs back in Chicago had him prepared to go all-out during the tryout.

"It's easy for me because the way I was raised -- to play the game the right way. So when I come to camps, I can play on the ball or off the ball. Bring my versatility. So that's what I'm trying to show," Dosunmu said.

"That's how I got used to this atmosphere, by doing two-a-days. I just want to keep getting more consistency on my jump shot, keep working on it. Because I know my quickness, speed and length -- and my jump shot coming along -- that's going to make it tough on the defense."

Competing for a gold medal is a huge moment for Dosunmu as he'll be playing for Kansas head coach Bill Self and a staff that includes Wake Forest coach Danny Manning and Dayton coach Anthony Grant. Recruited heavily by Self and Manning before eventually deciding on Illinois for college, Dosunmu is pleased to be able to work with veteran head coaches who are already familiar with his game.

While his freshman season at Illinois will be under an intense spotlight as one of the program's highest-rated recruits in years, Dosunmu is hoping to earn one more title before heading down to Champaign later this summer. 

"I'm excited for college, but I'm really not thinking about that. I'm just trying to focus on locking in for these days and focus on competing for a gold medal because that's been my dream," Dosunmu said.

"It's just great being able to be coached by legendary coaches and to be in this environment. To make the team, the time here, it gets you better. I can take stuff I'm learning here, take it to Illinois, and make me a better player."

67 Days to Kickoff: Kaneland

67 Days to Kickoff: Kaneland preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Kaneland

Head coach: Pat Ryan

Assistant coaches: Ryan Gierke, Mike Thorgesen, Drew Sterkel, John Pavlak, Matt Smith, Ryan Noel, Zach Martinelli, Isaiah Baerenklau, Alec Aurelio, Trevor McKeown and Mike Lotz

How they fared in 2018: 7-4 (3-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East Conference). Kaneland made the Class 6A state playoff field, defeated Von Steuben then lost to Cary-Grove in second round action. 

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Hinsdale South
Sept. 6 @ Geneva
Sept. 13 vs Sycamore
Sept. 20 @ Sandwich
Sept. 27 @ Rochelle
Oct. 4 @ Plano
Oct. 11 vs Ottawa
Oct. 18 @ Morris
Oct. 25 vs La Salle-Peru

[MORE: 96 Days to Kickoff - Morris]

Biggest storyline: A drive on Interstate Eight. Can the Knights keep rolling in their new conference?

Names to watch this season: QB Joe Smith (Sr.), WR/KR Max Gagne (Sr.), OL/DL Sam Pryor (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Knights welcome back several returning starters but the loss of RB Jonathon Alstott (graduation) will need to be accounted for this fall. 

EDGY's Early Take: The Knights will look to make the IHSA playoffs for the 22nd time in the past 25 seasons, but the big storyline this year is the Interstate Eight Conference. Kaneland had a very successful run in the now-defunct Northern Illinois Big 12 East. Will the momentum continue? The Knights will welcome back 13 returning starters (eight offense, four defense). The offense may need to help out a less-experienced defense, especially early on this season. Kaneland is about as battle-tested as anyone coming from the Northern Illinois Big 12 East. Look for the the Knights to challenge for a conference title in 2019. 

College coaches flock to Illinois as state benefits from new June live evaluation period


College coaches flock to Illinois as state benefits from new June live evaluation period

College basketball's renovated recruiting calendar had a lot of people skeptical. 

The newly-appointed June live evaluation period would theoretically allow college coaches to evaluate high school prospects with their high school teams instead of their AAU teams. The period also limited the number of players who could even be seen.

Which left Illinois in a unique position entering the first June scholastic evaluation period of the modern recruiting era this past weekend.  

With only 29 total events in 20 different states -- plus select teams from surrounding states -- over two weekends, there weren't a lot of events for college coaches to choose from. The NCAA's hastily-appointed June period also imposed limitations bounded by its rulebook and association with the NFHS. 

However, the new rules didn't hinder anything for high school players from Illinois. With an astounding six of the 29 June-period events for the month, Illinois high school basketball players will be seen by more college coaches than any other state during this month's live evaluation period.   

Since the IHSA already allowed (and encouraged) summer basketball during the month of June, Illinois high school players are accustomed to being with their scholastic teams in shootouts, college team camps and summer leagues during the month. The infrastructure was also in place for well-run events -- some already going for decades -- to easily allow for college coaches to come in and watch competitive high school events.

Most-importantly, it generated dozens of scholarship offers for the state's high school players as Riverside-Brookfield, Zion-Benton and other schools hosted hundreds of Illinois high school games during the first of two live-period weekends this past weekend.   

Other states scrambled to put together camps or tournaments for college coaches to watch their high school players. For some, football or baseball is the focus for June while basketball isn't even an option during the summer in certain states.  

California, New York, Florida and Texas all chose not to host June basketball events for college coaches. North Carolina is among a group of states where public and private schools operate under different state associations. So only certain schools could participate in June events.

While other states like Georgia and the West Coast's Section 7 in Arizona also created positive reviews for quality June events, the well-known Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, along with the newly-created Illinois/Wisconsin Border Battle event at Zion-Benton, drove hundreds of Division I college coaches to Illinois.

And those college coaches saw some very competitive games at Riverside-Brookfield that gave them a unique evaluation perspective. 

Illinois high school teams have been playing together most of the month, the games were more crisp at certain times than other places as college coaches had good things to say about the level of play here compared to other events. The Riverside-Brookfield final day, in particular, drew positive reviews for the level of competition as teams went hard during bracket play.

Star senior talents like Whitney Young's D.J Steward and Tyler Beard helped entice high-major coaches to attend the event which led to junior talents like Fenwick's Bryce Hopkins and Notre Dame's Louis Lesmond earning high-major scholarship offers. Mid- and low-major coaches also descended on Illinois from all over the country as senior standouts picked up waves of scholarship offers. 

College coaches at all levels also got to evaluate and get early looks at younger players in the state -- some of them rising freshmen who just joined the team this month. Some freshmen and sophomores created strong future impressions for later recruiting classes as college coaches follow up with them in the future.

All of these same players will still have an opportunity to play in front of college coaches next weekend when Ridgewood and Rockford both host additional Illinois high school events. More offers should be handed out by then as certain colleges will make Illinois players a priority to watch the rest of the summer.  

June also gives Illinois players a head start for the July evaluation period since college coaches can see who is worth keeping an eye on while also adding new recruitable players to their lists.

Overall, Illinois benefits from the new NCAA June period more than any other state this summer. The opening weekend was attended by hundreds of college coaches and was a huge success. Only nine total events will be played during the second weekend as Illinois should get many more coaches inside the state in the coming days.