Ayo Dosunmu dramatically announced his return to the Fighting Illini last summer, touting there was still “unfinished business” to attend to. And while Illinois didn’t entirely fulfill that prophecy, the men’s basketball team did enjoy its best season in a decade and a half. The Illini finished in “second place” to Michigan during the regular season, won the Big Ten Tournament title and earned the program’s first 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament since 2005. And most of the Illini’s success can be attributed to Ayo.
His junior season was his best, earning First Team Big Ten & All-American honors, as well as the Bob Cousy Award, given to college basketball’s top point guard. If not for Iowa’s Luka Garza, Dosunmu likely would have been named Big Ten and National Player of the Year.
By the Numbers
Ayo showed out in 2020-21, improving in every major statistical category, finishing with 20.1 PPG (16.6 in 2019-20), 6.3 RPG (4.3 in ‘19-20), 5.3 APG (3.3 in ‘19-20), 78.3% FT (up from 75.5%), and a 48.8% FG percentage (48.4%) in 35.1 minutes (33.5 MPG in ‘19-20).
But the biggest change in Ayo’s game was the long-range shot. He was 39% (32-for-82) from three-point distance this past season compared to a dismal 29.6% (29-for-98) in ‘19-20.
And two of Ayo’s best traits were reliability and consistency. His 9-point performance in the Illini’s NCAA Tournament loss to Loyola-Chicago ended a streak of 42 consecutive double-digit scoring games.
The junior guard notched two triple-doubles last season (Illinois had just two such games in program history prior to 2020), was elected Big Ten Tournament Most Oustanding Player & USA Today National Player of the Year, and became the first Illini ever to be named an AP First Team All-American. Ayo was also the first Division I player since Evan Turner in 2010 to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists in a single season.
Dos completed his Illini career with 1,504 points — a deep NCAA run and a fourth season in Champaign would have put Ayo within striking distance of Deon Thomas’ all-time scoring record — 435 rebounds and 351 assists. Ayo started all 90 games in which he played, never averaging fewer than 31 minutes per contest. And there are too many clutch moments to count.
Ayo declared for the NBA Draft in early April, and he’ll undoubtedly be the first Illini selected since Meyers Leonard in 2012. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports has Ayo tabbed as the 16th overall pick in his latest mock draft:
Dosunmu improved enough as a shooter in his third season at Illinois to lock up a spot in the first round. The regularity with which he took over games in the Big Ten suggests he can be a big-scoring guard at the next level.
Ayo is uber-competitive and a tireless worker. He has swagger and confidence, but is willing to absorb information and respond to challenges. He was recruited to restore the luster to Illinois basketball, and he did exactly that. No Final Four or national championship banners will be raised at State Farm Center this November, but Ayo will be forever remembered as one of the Fighting Illini’s all-time greats.