Illinois Basketball is back, and they’re 1-0.
This was one of four games where it’ll be tough to learn anything of substance. Evansville wasn’t able to keep up with the Illinois pressure, and when they managed to avoid a turnover, they were missing wide open shots.
All of the concerns and questions we had about this young team are exactly the same. But it’s nice to know they can take care of business when they’re supposed to. Tuesday’s Gavitt Games against Georgetown will tell us a lot more about where they’re at.
We did learn one thing for certain: Trent Frazier is not alone.
Thursday’s game started much like the exhibition, with Trent assisting on the first basket, scoring the next five points, and scoring eight of the first 20 in the first 10 minutes to breathe some life into the disjointed Illinois offense. A barrage of Aaron Jordan three pointers and stellar guard play put this one away late in the first half.
But it was prized recruit, Ayo Dosunmu, who stole the show. In fairness, everyone who checked in for the Illini played a really good game and contributed positively to the 39-point win. However, when the highest rated recruit in a decade suits up for his first game, he’s going to bask in the limelight.
Many of us were aware of his talent and were pretty confident that he was going to be a difference maker. But, many were skeptical — and understandably so. After all, last year’s Mr. Basketball didn’t live up to the hype, and we’ve been hurt too many times to just give away our trust. Ayo proved pretty quickly that this is going to be different, though.
Dosunmu’s presence and confidence with the ball is special, regardless of his age. He’s absolutely lethal in the open floor as the offensive focal point and is more than willing to act as a cog in the halfcourt offense. The biggest question mark surrounding Dosunmu’s game translating to the next level was his jumpshot, but he silenced those critics going 2-of-3 from behind the arc in his first game. He’s going to go through slumps from distance, but confidence isn’t something fans have to worry about with Dosunmu.
Because he also did this late in the game.
Just because he could.
Ayo is going to have clips like this all year — scoring, passing, stealing. He’s going to make you go — “wow” — out loud as you look on from home. Much like Trent Frazier did last year when he was pulling up from 24 feet with Jordan Bohannon draped all over him.
The difference is Ayo can do a little bit of everything. He’s a jack-of-all trades, and by the end of the year, he’s going to be a master in more than one.
His final stat line is a fan or coach’s dream. 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and just one turnover in 24 minutes while shooting over 50 percent from the field and from three. That’s the kind of weapon he can be, and by the end of his Illini career, that is going to be an average stat line for him against Big Ten opponents. He will make 18-5-5 look familiar and boring. And he’s going to continue to do perform at such a high level effortlessly.
Trent Frazier didn’t score in the second half. He didn’t have to. The game was in hand. He has some help this year. And no one is happier about that than Trent.
We just watched the debut of a very special duo. Enjoy it. And let the (real) games begin.