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Ayo Isn’t Ruining His Draft Stock — Illinois Is Wasting Its Moment

Ayo is going to be fine, but will we?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

“Ayo is playing himself out of the lottery.”

“So much for a lottery pick.”

“He can’t shoot.”

“I expected a lot more from someone getting so much hype.”

These are all the comments I’ve heard in the first few months regarding Illinois sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu. And these aren’t just the brazen twitter hot take artists, these are friends and family I watch games with in person.

It’s becoming exhausting.

Dosunmu recorded 21 points and five rebounds in Saturday’s Braggin’ Rights Embarrassment. He was clearly the best player on the floor for the Illini and the game was essentially Ayo Dosunmu vs. Dru Smith.

Ayo’s scoring, FG%, FT% and turnovers are up this year. His 3FG%, rebounds, assists and steals are slightly down. Statistically, he’s having a comparable season to his freshman campaign. His threes haven’t been falling and he’s only finally starting to finish around the rim as most expected. The turnovers are a serious problem. One which the entire team — especially Giorgi Bezhanishvili — has been infected with.

He’s not having the All-American season many of us dreamed of, but I have bad news for Illini fans thinking this means his draft stock is tanking: it’s not. His name may slip on your favorite blog’s big board throughout the season if the Illini continue to struggle. But once Ayo gets in the private workouts, he’s going to eat people alive and NBA GMs are going to fall in love. He’s getting drafted.

Ayo’s length, skill, IQ, speed, position and age make him a first round pick. Conversation over. His upside as a shooter makes him even more tantalizing. His floor is Kris Dunn. Who, while disappointing, has proven to be a valuable NBA defender and playmaker off the bench.

NBA front offices draft traits and measurables, not Big Ten box scores. That’s why Malcolm Hill isn’t in the league, and Kendrick Nunn had to scratch and claw for years to get his chance.

This is the last season of Ayo Dosunmu in Orange & Blue. And by the looks of it, his NBA career is going to be far more successful than his college one. The NBA game will prove to be a much better fit for Ayo’s combination of speed and length to flourish. The pace of the NBA game favors Ayo’s skillset. You are going to want to pull your hair out when Ayo is Rookie of the Month next year and Charles Barkley is stumbling over himself to pronounce his name.

So stop it with the Ayo slander. We sound like the high school sweetheart boyfriend who is about to get dumped by his girlfriend after they went away to college and she realizes how much better she could do. We need to look in the mirror.

Brad Underwood and Illinois Basketball are wasting one of the best talents of the decade. Ayo and Kofi on the same team should not be this mediocre.

Enough with the dribble weave and the overcomplicated spread offense that leads to nothing. We have the better players. Just take it to them. Strip it down. More ball screens. More drive and kick. More pure post touches. Back to the basics. My guy is better than your guy. This isn’t Stephen F. Austin. We don’t need to try and out-scheme every single opponent anymore. We finally have the firepower we’ve been waiting for.

Underwood’s offense is neutering a young talented roster by forcing them to play by his rules instead of freeing them up and enabling them to utilize their best skills. It’s the job of the head coach to put his players in the best positions to win.

Underwood can still fix all of this. He just has to do his job.