Ayo Dosunmo Way More Valuable than NBA Draft Stock Indicates

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Illinois junior Ayo Dosunmu is the best closer in college basketball, and arguably, the best overall guard. The Chicagoan, from Morgan Park High, has developed a quality that is reminiscent of Michael Jordan. When the game is on the line, you have a team from the state of Illinois with a 6-6 off the ball guard who will take, and can make, the big clutch shot.

We see it game after game, as Dosunmu is now 12-18 from the field in the final 90 seconds of regulation and overtime this season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Having a true closer is invaluable for a college basketball team in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s something to think about when taking a look at bookmaker-ratings.com and figuring out where you’re going to bet this March Madness. Billions of dollars will be wagered this tournament, and when filling out your bracket, it’s a good idea to go with a team that has someone who can deliver in crunch time, and Dosunmu simply has ice water in his veins. The NCAA tourney is one and done so that means the big shot down the stretch (and the mental toughness to step up and shoot/the confidence to hit it) is that much more important.

In the Illini’s most recent victory, over in-state rival Northwestern, he hit back-to-back 3-pointers with 1:20 remaining and then 36 seconds left (the second of which was way beyond NBA level deep), turning a 65-63 lead into a 71-63 Illini advantage. Because of Ayo, Illinois was able to just get by against a vastly inferior opponent.

ayo dosunmu

The previous game, another sweet escape (apologies to Gwen Stefani) against another lesser opponent (also a NU) in winless Nebraska, Dosunmu had 31 points, his career high in a Big Ten contest, including 22 combined in the second half and overtime, including 15 straight points from 3:21 remaining in the second half through 4:00 left in OT.

Having the clutch gene is synonymous with Ayo Dosunmu now, but it was something I asked him close to a year ago.

“It’s a mentality that all basketball players want to have,” he said in response to my question. “Growing up watching Kobe Bryant, not just him but pretty much all the great players in the NBA, watching them close games out, but also failure plays a huge impact in that,” Ayo Dosunmu responded.

“Losing in high school, championship games and even AAU. There have been times when I didn’t close out and my senior year there were like six, seven games I didn’t close out, I couldn’t close out.”

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“Going through situations like that prepared me for now when I’m in situations like that I fall back on my preparation.”

Dosnumu enter’s today’s game at Minnesota averaging 21.3 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game and 5.1 assists per game. The last college basketball player to average 20+ ppg, 6+ rpg and 5+ apg in a season was Ohio State’s Evan Turner (’09-’10) who swept all the player of the year awards that season.

Since ’92-’93, only four players have accomplished this.

Ayo, who achieved just the third triple double in school history a couple weeks ago, is a leading national player of the year candidate. However, his greatness isn’t really reflected by his NBA Draft stock. NBA mock drafts exist simply to generate page views, and there is nothing wrong with that as you need to get paid for your work, and eyeballs drive revenue.

That said, you always take mock drafts with a grain of salt. They’re a guide, not gospel. Tankathon has Dosunmu going #33 overall, NBA Draft Room has him #16, USA Today slots him at #19, NBA Draft.net foresees him #22, SB Nation says #30, My NBA Draft.com #29 and Bleacher Report predicts Ayo Dosunmu to go #40.

In other words, all over the map, but nobody has him in the lottery- what’s up with that?

As Illini coach Brad Underwood said “I don’t know what the last chapter will look like, but the middle chapters are damn hellacious.”

It’s hard to predict where Dosunmu will go because the NBA Draft isn’t really about selecting the best basketball player. Sounds silly to say, but it’s true. The NBA Draft has long been a beauty pagaent for boys, where measurables take precedence over accomplishment, but in recent years this has gotten more obnoxious.

If the entertainment value of consuming NBA Draft content seems to be diminishing to you, well, you’re not alone. Consuming more college basketball doesn’t always make you more familiar with who will get selected on draft night. It’s more about combine stuff than what’s done on the court these days.

Dosunmu is lauded for having great handles, creative shot-making ability, tremendous passing and vastly improved shooting.

He’s improved his 3-point shooting from 29.6% last season to 41.1% so far this season.

brad underwood

“Practice, practice, practice,” Underwood responded, when asked about how Dosunmu improved his three point shot so drastically this season.

“We forget that he spent the off-season really working from the NBA line. Practicing those reps- that’s helped. I think the mental component, of knowing he’s spent so much time at the NBA line has helped, and I think the other factor is he’s taking good shots.

“He’s not being forced, or settling.”

“Put it all together and you’re going to be seeing increased percentages.

The Illini star also ranks in the 87th percentile in transition opportunities this season, according to Synergy Sports.

And yet, no one projects him to be a lottery pick?

There are supposedly questions about his athleticism or lack of specialty skill. Whatever the hell that means.

Having gone through the draft process this offseason, Dosunmu received feedback that it made it clear he needed to return to school, for at least one more year. So it’s easy to understand why every no mock has him in the top ten or anything like that.

But again, the whole point of the NBA Draft selection process is to find guys who are good at playing basketball, and it goes without saying that Ayo Dosunmu is among the best at the collegiate level this season.

If the draftniks and scouts don’t see this by now, well then maybe the process is extremely flawed and not very meritocratic.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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