Illini basketball in the Brad Underwood era has finally shown signs of a pulse in the past month as the team picked up two very high quality wins over teams ranked in the top 15 at the time. Illinois has now won four of their last five, and played their way above the Wednesday night projection in the Big Ten tournament.
If the Illini can close out the season 4-3 or better, they will avoid breaking the school record for single season losses. A primary reason for the Illini surge has been the stellar play of freshman point guard Ayo Dosunmu. His rapid development has coincided with the drastic Illini improvement.
We discussed Ayo Dosunmu and Illini basketball on CLTV Sports Feed with Jarrett Payton and Andy Masur on Sunday night. Watch the segment below:
His breaking out as of late has some Illini hoops fans worried that he might bolt after this season for the NBA Draft, and with it impede the program’s so-called “rebuild.”
That’s an extremely flawed “narrative” (one of 2019’s grossly overused and misused words) for several reasons. First off, the program hasn’t had anybody drafted since Meyers Leonard in 2012 (a drought one year longer than the NCAA Tournament dry spell).
If the University of Illinois can hear its name said on NBA Draft night, it’s a huge win for everybody involved with the program, not just Ayo Dosunmu and his friends and family. While the NBA Scouting Combine may be the most boring event imaginable, and one that decreases in meaning every year, an invite to it typically equals getting drafted.
The last three Illini combine invitees -Brandon Paul, Demetri McCamey and Jereme Richmond- all went undrafted, and that’s a big reason the draft drought has persisted so long.
If you’re a true Illini fan, you want this Sahara Desert kind of dryness over, due to the obvious benefits that come along with having a draftee in your midst.
When Ayo made his recruiting announcement, he said: “he can get me to the next level” in regards to Underwood.
This was a reference to his current coach, and what he accomplished in developing Jawun Evans at Oklahoma State. Getting guys to the NBA is the best recruiting tool there is; just ask John Calipari.
However, the NBA Draft stock of Ayo Dosunmu is a mixed bag to say the least. On one hand, both ESPN and Draft Express rank Dosunmu as the 21st overall player on their big boards.
Take a look:
Boom! Ayo Dosunmu (@AyoDos_11) lands at #21 on this NBA Draft list. This kid has special talent and people are noticing. https://t.co/ozsGjqNaaS #Illini
— Writing Illini (@WritingIlliniFS) January 17, 2019
Ayo Dosunmu: 21st best available according to @DraftExpress #NBADraft #Illini pic.twitter.com/SVE7G7DBkx
— Noah Newman (@NoahNewmanWJTV) January 18, 2019
On the other hand, you just don’t see the name Ayo Dosunmu in any NBA mock drafts; at all. Obviously mock drafts are not the end all be all, and many are severely flawed, but unfortunately, Ayo absence from them has been a consistent theme this year. NBA Draft.net, Tankathon, Draft Site and Basketball Insiders all have full two round mocks, and you won’t see the extremely gifted, uber talented Chicago kid from Morgan Park in any of them.
Don’t even bother looking at the mocks that one round only.
If you do a deeper dive into #11’s draft stock, you’ll see this is really more of a 2020 NBA Draft stock conversation. That’s where Dosunmu’s future really looks especially bright.
Illini fans who are worried about him leaving school this season, should do some research and then their fears will be alleviated. This topic is one where you should have 2020 vision.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.
He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.
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