Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu focused on winning and unfinished business
You can take the Bulls rookie out of Chicago, but good luck taking the Chicago out of the Bulls rookie as Dosunmu makes his All-Star festivities debut this weekend. So what’s next for him? What’s not?
CLEVELAND — Guard Ayo Dosunmu could have viewed Friday night as the apex of his rookie season with the Bulls. It isn’t often that second-round draft picks are front and center in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend.
If only the former Illinois star and Morgan Park standout were wired that way.
“First, this is a blessing, and I’m honored to be a part of this situation, be a part of this event, but I also come into this knowing I’ve got a long ways to go,” Dosunmu told the Sun-Times earlier Friday. “I know there’s a lot more for me to accomplish, and I want more.
“I also know there’s some people at home right now that didn’t make the Rising Stars Game, who were drafted higher than me or even felt like I did on draft night, and they’re going to come back for more, come at me for more. So I always try and treat myself with the ‘glass half empty’ [mentality]. You have to motivate yourself to be better. I know how this game goes, and I still know I have to prove things to people. I need to show them that they made a mistake leaving me to the second round.”
Donsumu, the 38th pick last July, was 345 miles from Chicago when he said this, but the Chicago was coming out strong: chip on his shoulder, head on a swivel.
“That’s what Chicago means to me,” he said. “It means you better bring that competitive spirit. I always want to win. That was the goal coming into this weekend, and that’s the goal for bigger things after this — to win. That’s all that needs to be said.”
It’s no wonder Dosunmu’s teammates embraced him so quickly in training camp last fall. All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine were impressed with not just his grit but his desire to get better by asking questions about anything and everything.
Now the rest of the league has noticed, too. Speaking on national television last week, former NBA star Dwyane Wade, a fellow Chicagoan, said of Dosunmu: “He can come in right away, he can take charges, and he can defend the other team’s best player. Some nights, you see him scoring in the 20s. This kid right here is one of those guys — he’s like a Kawhi Leonard, like you got somebody that’s a diamond in the rough. If you continue to add to his game, he can be a featured guy, like a Jimmy Butler once became.”
That endorsement meant a lot.
“I heard that, and coming from Dwyane Wade, a basketball legend, I was blessed to hear that,” Dosunmu said. “It’s true, because I want to continue to get better. I want to work. I’m not a finished product — I’m nowhere near being a finished product. I have so many more skills to dip into. It’s about coming to work every day, hard hat on, and knock down this game brick by brick, unlock different levels of my game.”
That mindset is how minutes off the bench here and there turned into a regular rotation spot off the bench, then the starting point guard spot when the Bulls were suddenly short-handed last month.
Since the start of February, Donsumu is averaging 11 points, 7.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game, but seven victories in the Bulls’ last 10 games is the only part that matters to him. And coach Billy Donovan sees it.
“To me, it’s all about his makeup,” Donovan said recently. “You can watch a guy play for 10 minutes and figure out if he can play or not. It takes a long time to figure out that ‘it’ factor. He’s got the ‘it’ factor.
“He’s incredibly motivated. He balances really well that line of being confident but not coming across as arrogant. He’s a fearless competitor. He can’t lose that because, to me, that’s got to be his identity.”
So what’s next for Dosunmu after All-Star Weekend? The obvious unfinished business. The Bulls went into the break tied with the Heat atop the Eastern Conference. Dosunmu won’t be satisfied until there’s another championship trophy in the glass case at the United Center.
“I always want Chicago to accomplish the best it can accomplish, go as far as possible,” he said. “I saw those [Derrick Rose teams] get close, and now that I’m playing for Chicago, that edge I’ve always had watching the game, I’m in this to help us reach the top.”