Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu carrying torch for Chicago basketball

The second-round draft pick continues to defy the odds, and he might be just what the city needs.

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There was some truth to what perennial NBA All-Star big man Anthony Davis said a few years back: Chicago really did feel like the real ‘‘mecca of basketball’’ at the time.

Nowadays? Not so much.

With Davis and Derrick Rose injured and on the bench in street clothes most nights and Jabari Parker without a team, it’s a fashion show more than a mecca these days.

But Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu is doing his best to change that — one fearless performance at a time.

Just look at whom the rookie from Morgan Park and Illinois has been asked to guard in the last few weeks. On Saturday against the Celtics, he was on Jayson Tatum. Last week against the Mavericks, it was Luka Doncic. And he already has butted heads with the Hawks’ Trae Young.

On Monday against the Grizzlies, get ready for MVP candidate Ja Morant.

Then look at what Dosunmu, 21, has done with the rest of his game. He started the season as a second-round pick with a first-round chip on his shoulder, fought his way into a role as an energy guy off the bench, became a regular fixture in the rotation, then started at point guard Saturday against the Celtics.

All he did in that game was become the first rookie in NBA history to score at least 20 points (he finished with 21), hand out 10 assists and shoot 90% from the field. Dosunmu went 9-for-10 in the loss, including 3-for-3 from three-point range.

Not bad for a guy who went 0-for-5 from the field Friday in a loss to the Warriors.

‘‘I had a tough night, didn’t play to my standards,’’ Dosunmu said of his performance against the Warriors. ‘‘But I knew we had another chance [Saturday] to get better, so I wanted to establish that mentality. It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and there are so many games that you can’t get too high or too low. That was my challenge.

‘‘And then coach [Billy] Donovan said we weren’t playing hard enough. All the coaches that I played for, since I was 4 years old, play hard was one of the main things you have to do to compete. So I wanted to play as hard as I can. That’s the type of player I am. Whenever my coach asks for something, I know that he means it genuinely. I just do whatever I can to follow through on what his request is. I just want to play as hard as I can.’’

Dosunmu did what he could for the Bulls, who were missing their starting backcourt with Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball each working through knee issues.

‘‘For a young guy like him to play with so much poise and not get rushed into making quick decisions, just playing smart ball, is impressive at that age,’’ center Nikola Vucevic said. ‘‘Especially only in his third start and playing however many games we’ve played so far. He played well at both ends. He’s been doing that all year long. It’s a huge addition for us.’’

And a huge addition for the city. Chicago needs a star to carry that basketball torch. Davis still has a lot of basketball left, and even Rose has moments when he’s healthy. So there’s no rush for Dosunmu.

But that has been the most impressive part about him: He doesn’t follow timeline expectations and usual paths. For Dosunmu, it’s not whether he’ll be a star from Chicago but how quickly.

‘‘You have to grow up fast,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m trying to compete and play how I know I can play.’’

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