But this time it feels a little different.
In his first career start Monday night against the Nuggets, Dosunmu played a game-high 42 minutes and scored 11 points. He also added eight assists and six rebounds, aka a very Ayo Dosunmu statline.
Here’s how he reportedly found out he was starting Monday.
Billy Donovan informed Ayo Dosunmu about 1 hour before tip-off that he would make his first NBA start and "play a lot."— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 7, 2021
"I need you to be who you are," Donovan told Dosunmu.
"He was unfazed," Donovan adds.
Sounds about right.
You’re telling me THIS guy was the 38th best player in this year’s draft class?
And that doesn’t even tell the whole story.
It’s what he said after the game that just makes him more impressive — and makes us, as Illini fans, even more proud.
“I’m just trying to use my instincts,” Dosunmu told the NBCSN broadcast after the game. “Having been at Illinois for three years, the whole coaching staff they instilled in me playing defense.”
video as requested pic.twitter.com/nNnSi10ohC— AYO DOSUNMU STAN ACCOUNT & Haberdashery (@Champaign_Room) December 7, 2021
And then in the locker room, he tweeted about not just his win, but Illinois’ win on the road at Iowa earlier in the night.
Any time bulls win & Illinois beat Iowa it’s a great day #JL4L— Quamdeen “Ayo” Dosunmu (@AyoDos_11) December 7, 2021
And in meeting with the media, he got a chance to acknowledge the significance of him being introduced as “FROM CHICAGO” in the startling lineups (of course, by the wonderful and magnificent Tim Sinclair).
Ayo Dosunmu is pretty damn mature, both on and off the court. But you gotta love his innocence when asked about being introduced "from Chicago . . ." during starting lineups and if he's aware of the history behind that with Derrick Rose: "He's from Chicago, too."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 7, 2021
Ayo Dosunmu on being announced “from Chicago” in his first NBA start. pic.twitter.com/u7Cn00Qs0z— Hoop Informatics (@HoopInformatics) December 7, 2021
All in all, it was the perfect night for Ayo Dosunmu and the Illinois Basketball brand. These types of wins — with players in the NBA and with the current team once again trending toward the top of the Big Ten — are the signs we needed to see from Brad Underwood after a bumpy start to his tenure in Champaign.
Lonzo Ball on Ayo Dosunmu: “He got that swag to him. He’s very confident when he’s out there. We put 100% trust into him.”— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 7, 2021
But more than that, I think I speak for all of us when I say Ayo is just making us proud.
And the fact he’s getting to do it in his home city on a winning team, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.