‘I’m waiting on you’: Bulls’ Ayo Dosunmu has some advice for ex-Illini mate Kofi Cockburn

Dosunmu knows all about being overlooked on draft day, a fate that could await Cockburn, as well.

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Loyola Chicago v Illinois

Dosunmu with Cockburn during the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu has had a consistent message for friend and -ex-Illinois teammate Kofi Cockburn over the last couple of months:

“You’re ready for this. Whenever you get to the NBA, you’re going to be so good. I’m just waiting on you.”

Dosunmu, whom the Bulls drafted 38th in July, has been the best surprise on a surging team, more than holding his own in starter’s minutes during the extended absences of veteran guards Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. But he also knows a thing or two about being overlooked on draft day, a fate that could await Cockburn, as well. On the eve of the draft, prominent mocks had Dosunmu going as soon as the low 20s or as late as the early 30s.

“Just numbers,” he says now.

There are widespread concerns about Cockburn’s back-to-the-basket offensive style and whether he can venture beyond the lane and guard defensively, but Dosunmu is a believer.

“I see him coming in and making an impact,” he says. “The NBA is all about working on your game and getting better, and he has all the tools. He has touch, which you can see [on free throws]. He has a great feel around the rim. He’s 7 feet, 7-1, and he can run. He’s an animal.

“People ask how he’ll adjust to the NBA, but just look at his God-given strength. That big, with a 40-inch vertical? The NBA is going to have to adjust to him. No one coming out of college is perfect, but sometimes people just overthink it, look for certain stories, certain stigmas and try to take away what he does that’s really good. I don’t. He’ll be fine.”

Any pieces of advice for Cockburn or any other player whose draft stock might not be as high as it should be? Dosunmu offers three:

Chicago Bulls v Indiana Pacers

Dosunmu has made his mark as an NBA rookie.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

1. Don’t look at mock drafts: “They don’t mean anything. They’re nothing but someone’s opinion, and people have totally different opinions than the organization [that drafts you] has once you’re there. Just stay focused on your college season, and focus on getting yourself better as a player and person on and off the court. Forget about where they say you’re going to be and try to dominate.”

2. Check yourself: “I promise you, once you get to the NBA, no one will care about what you accomplished before the NBA or if you think you were drafted too low or any of that. Basically, your salary is the only thing [that separates] anybody. You’ve got vets coming at you each and every day and night. What separates you is the work you put in. As long as you work, keep chopping wood, keep getting better and better, then you’ll have success.”

3. Really lean in: “The whole coaching staff is there to help you get better. A lot of veterans, too. If you get into the right situation, a great organization, get your body in tip-top shape — like with Kofi. He can catch lobs, play in the short roll, he can pass. But he can improve in [those] and other areas because of his work ethic. I think he’ll fit in fine in the NBA with his work ethic.”

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