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Ayo’s first year? Spectacular.

With the 2022 NBA Draft upon us, we take a look back at Illinois’ 2021 selection.

Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

When Ayo Dosunmu walked into Bracket Room in Chicago filled with family, friends, teammates — even Chance the Rapper — last July, he didn’t expect to have to wait nearly four hours and into the second round to hear his name called.

I think if you asked him, though, it was well worth the wait. Ayo’s hometown Chicago Bulls eventually selected him with the 38th overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, allowing him to suit up for his childhood team and continue to represent the city of Chicago at the professional level.

As the Bulls made their pick, family and friends surrounding Ayo erupted in celebration in what was an emotional moment for both Ayo and those who have been with him along his basketball journey from Morgan Park High School to Illinois and now the Chicago Bulls.

“I know I’m a first round talent,” he said while speaking to Chicago media as the night concluded. “But you can’t know what God has planned for you. And God wanted me to play for my home city.”

Safe to say Ayo represented his city extremely well after a phenomenal rookie year that led to an NBA All-Rookie Second-Team selection. He averaged 8.8 points and 3.3 assists per game along with emerging as an extremely reliable defender for head coach Billy Donovan as the season progressed. He also stepped in as a starter and played key minutes during the absences of guards Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, starting 40 games overall and playing 30.9 minutes per game after the All-Star Break, which was fourth on the team behind the Bulls’ Big 3 of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic.

Highlights

He first burst onto the scene with this nearly flawless performance at TD Garden against the Eastern Conference champs, as detailed by our very own Jeff Horwitz below.

Who can forget when Ayo broke the Bulls’ rookie record for most consecutive makes to start a game with 9, which included this absurd half-court buzzer beater?

Easily my favorite moment of his rookie year was this game-sealing POSTER in Indiana (which has been my phone’s wallpaper ever since by the way). He also happened to dish out a career-high 14 assists in this game.

His impact stretched far beyond the highlight reel as well. It was truly remarkable to watch him transform his game throughout the season to fit whatever role the Bulls were looking for. Need a reliable defender on the perimeter? Ayo locks down the likes of Trae Young and Bradley Beal. Best playmakers hurt? Ayo leads the team in assists in February. Three-point shooting lacking? Ayo makes those at a 38% clip. Anything the Bulls needed, Ayo delivered it and delivered it at an extremely high level.

There’s no doubt the Fighting Illini legend is going to make himself some money in this league for a long time. I can’t wait to see what’s to come in Year 2.