Bulls’ Ayo Dosunmu is just another ‘Chicago kid’ defying the odds
Picked in the second round out of Illinois, Dosunmu joined a deep backcourt and looked as though he would be getting minutes in the G League. Eight games in, however, he’s doing all he can to be another Chicago basketball player who brings a fearless attitude to the court.
The script was handed to Ayo Dosunmu on draft night.
Actually, it was rolled up and slapped across his face while the former Illinois standout was falling out of the first round and into the second.
It was a worst-case scenario playing out in front of his eyes.
That’s because there’s a history with second-round picks, whether they are selected at No. 38 — like Dosunmu was — or they slide further.
Come into camp, work hard, enjoy life on the second or third team, then prepare to see minutes in the G League while going back and forth with the NBA roster. Marko Simonovic, selected 44th overall in 2020, is following that script right now, as did Paul Zipser, Cameron Bairstow, Eric Murphy . . . go right down the list.
But here’s the thing about Chicago kids: They don’t follow scripts or assumed expectations. Life imitates the basketball court. They often adlib. Rules and rims are made to be broken.
And while his time in Champaign might have fine-tuned Dosunmu for the NBA, Chicago raised him.
‘‘It’s just the way we are here,’’ Dosunmu said. ‘‘You know how the Chicago Public League is, the state championship is, how many good high schools there are. I think that, in itself — the Bogans, the Morgan Parks, the Simeons, the Whitney Youngs competing day-in and day-out, looking to be the best — it just makes Chicago kids that much tougher and then tougher to deal with by outsiders.
‘‘It’s hard to define us or put us in a box unless you’re from here.’’
And Dosunmu is ‘‘from here.’’
Described as ‘‘fearless’’ from the first day of training camp by Bulls coach Billy Donovan and teammates, Dosunmu — who played at Morgan Park — has defied the path most second-round picks follow in their rookie season and is becoming a key bench presence in the rotation for a 6-2 team.
That was on full display in the Bulls’ last two games.
In a 19-point comeback Monday in Boston, Dosunmu played a season-high 22 minutes, scored 14 points, brought much-needed energy to the court and even made a clutch three-pointer with 6:54 left that gave the Bulls the lead.
On Wednesday in Philadelphia, despite struggling on offense, Dosunmu still sank a three-pointer in the fourth quarter that pulled the Bulls within four after they had trailed by as many as 18.
‘‘It’s not surprising,’’ veteran forward DeMar DeRozan said of Dosunmu’s emergence. ‘‘I remember watching him in college and the toughness he brought. In joining the team and getting to know him, the humbleness he carries himself with, along with the toughness, it’s definitely one of a kind. He’s definitely the epitome of a Chicago kid. You throw him out there on the road, he does something like he [did in Boston]. It shows who he is as a basketball player.’’
Calling him ‘‘a Chicago kid’’ is the ultimate compliment a teammate can hand Dosunmu right now.
‘‘If you look at all the Chicago greats, the attitude they play with, the swagger they have, I think it just goes back to that,’’ Dosunmu said. ‘‘Just being confident in yourself, not backing down from anyone, being fearless, not afraid to fail. It’s about going out there [and being] willing to compete against anyone at a high level.’’
Whether that means old-school Chicago standouts such as Isiah Thomas, Mo Cheeks and Mark Aguirre or current players such as Derrick Rose, Patrick Beverley and Anthony Davis, Dosunmu feels he owes it to them and the city to carry that torch.
That’s why when Davis called Chicago the real ‘‘mecca of basketball’’ a few years back, he was speaking the truth in Dosunmu’s eyes.
‘‘I mean . . . look at the last 10, 20, 30 years and longer — I would say it has to be the mecca,’’ Dosunmu said. ‘‘If not one, then right there at the top. There’s so many guys that have made it out to the highest level.’’
That’s where Dosunmu would like to be someday, too. But before he can fly, he needs to crawl and then walk — steps he has been skipping a bit so far.
The Bulls have a crowded backcourt, and Dosunmu has to share time with Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, Alex Caruso and Troy Brown Jr. He actually has been stealing minutes from Brown, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way.
Then there’s the Coby White factor. White is starting to take contact and test his surgically repaired left shoulder, and his return will affect Dosunmu directly.
That means Dosunmu very well might have to take a step back, collect some dust on the bench and get his minutes with the Windy City Bulls in the G League to keep a rhythm, like the original script read.
Just don’t count on it.
‘‘Yeah, I get why everyone thought that would be my path, but my mindset was different,’’ Dosunmu said. ‘‘My mindset was it didn’t matter how it usually goes [with second-round picks] or what people thought, I know what I have to do to help a team win. I know how to compete, I know I have the brains and I know what I need to do and continue to do.
‘‘I never really cared about what people said because I understood where I belonged in the draft, what my capabilities were, and I just believe in me.’’
Chicago kids usually do.