Among the most NBA-ready prospects in the entire 2021 draft class is Quamdeen "Ayo" Dosunmu, who spent the past three college seasons at the University of Illinois. The youngest of four children growing up in Chicago, Dosunmu has established a reputation amongst his past coaches and NBA front offices as one of the most hard-working, high character players in the country.
He gives credit to his family and the way he was raised, saying he was always put in a situation to succeed and instilled with great values.
“I always just do things the right way. Treat people with kindness, work as hard as you can, and never let someone tell you that you can’t accomplish something,” said Dosunmu.
One of the top recruits in the country, Dosunmu made an impact at Illinois immediately, starting all 32 games as a freshman. While he likely could have gone to the NBA after one college season, he ultimately came back and showed drastic improvement in his sophomore season. Once again after his sophomore campaign, as player who would certainly have been selected in the 2020 NBA Draft, Dosunmu decided to head back to school for a junior season.
This decision came down to wanting to win at the highest level, as would go on to lead Illinois to a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament after averaging 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per contest during the season.
“I’m big on winning,” Dosunmu told SI Thunder. “I’m always trying to find ways to become a winner and I thought going back another year at Illinois was one of the best decisions for me.”
Dosunmu showed a very linear development trend between his three college seasons, improving in nearly every statistical category each year.
“I think the extra year benefited me a lot. For my game and my body. I gained eight pounds,” said Dosunmu. “My vertical increased. All of my numbers increased. My shot got better. Overall, my game improved drastically in almost every category.”
Dosunmu, a First Team All-American last season, is willing to do anything to get better. The hardest worker and most dedicated player on nearly every court he’s ever stepped on, his improved 3-point shot was something that might increase his draft stock the most from last year to this year, increasing by 9.4 percent.
“When you put the work in and really dedicate yourself to something, the hard work is always there,” the guard said. “That’s how I know I’ll do well in the pros. Working out every day, shooting three times a day. Just working on ways to get better. I watched a lot of film to help myself become a better 3-point shooter and a better shooter overall. Just slight mechanics things that I was really able to correct.”
It's safe to say going back for a third college season paid off.
After putting together an impressive three year resume, Dosunmu is finally set to enter the 2021 NBA Draft and take that next step as a professional basketball player. To this point, the pre-draft process has gone extremely well.
“It’s been going great,” said the 6-foot-5 guard. “I am able to go compete and show my talent in front of GM’s. I’ve been playing very well and am very excited for the position I’ve put myself in.”
The grind of the NBA is no easy task, even off the floor. Packing 82 games into a six-month schedule with travel all over the country can be mentally exhausting, especially for a rookie. Dosunmu has gotten a small taste of that throughout his pre-draft process.
“I did the LA to New York flight and that was really long. I got a taste of how the NBA is. The lifestyle of it going city to city in back-to-backs,” said Dosunmu.
In terms of the pre-draft grind, Dosunmu has worked out with roughly eight teams, as he’s projected to be selected late in the first round on July 29.
“I’ve been with about eight teams so far,” Dosunmu told Sports Illustrated.
One team to keep an eye on when draft night comes around is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dosunmu gave insight into his interaction with the team to this point, telling me he’s already completed a group workout with the Thunder and is slated to head back to Oklahoma City in the coming days for a second in-person meeting.
Playing in a small market wouldn’t bother Dosunmu, as he’s focused on winning regardless of who drafts him. He’s no stranger to the state of Oklahoma after being heavily recruited by Oklahoma State University in high school.
“It is what it is. At the next level in the NBA, I really don’t care that much,” said the Chicago native. “Whatever team drafts me, big market or small market, I’m gonna go there and start to work and try to be the best player I can be.”
At 6-foot-5, Dosunmu has the tools to be elite across the board in the NBA.
Outside of being tall for a guard, he's got a 6-foot-10 wingspan that will help him in multiple facets of the game at the next level. With his length and athleticism, Dosunmu is an absolute force in transition and extremely efficient when playing with a fast pace. This will translate nicely in the NBA, as the game will naturally speed up.
Not only is Dosunmu dangerous in transition, but he also has the handles to break teams down off the dribble in the half court. With a variety of go-to moves off the bounce, he's able to get to the cup and finish at a high rate. When defenders collapse, he's also shown the ability to be an elite passer, dishing out some impressive assist numbers throughout the years. In fact, he's set to be a triple-double threat in the NBA with his passing ability and willingness to crash the boards, even as a guard.
A high-upside defender with his frame and capable 3-point shooter, becoming a reliable 3-and-D player in the NBA is a real possibility.
Overall, being an oversized guard will certainly work to Dosunmu’s advantage at the next level, as he’s got the size and strength to compete with little guards of all sizes. While many guards in his draft class are elite at one or two particular things, he has an extremely well-rounded game and is ready to make an impact at all levels of the game in the NBA.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of guards similar to me because I impact the game in so many ways,” Dosunmu said. “Not just scoring, not just rebounding, but the overall package. I can score, I can facilitate, I can rebound, I can make clutch shots when needed, I can defend. I can do all of that as a guard. I don’t think there’s a lot of guards with the same pedigree as me.”
As good as Dosunmu is, like any rookie, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
What's interesting is that he's shown more of an ability to hit threes off the bounce over simple catch-and-shoot opportunities. If Dosunmu is going to be an effective off-ball guard in the NBA, he'll need to improve in those spot-up situations. While shot creation is an excellent skill to have, it's not always necessary for players in many roles at the next level.
He'll also need to show a continued ability to knock down shots from behind the arc in general. While he converted on nearly 40 percent of his threes in his junior season, the larger sample size of his first two college seasons yielded much different results.
With all of this in mind, Dosunmu is very aware that there will be challenges and obstacles throughout his rookie season and beyond. In terms of setting goals for himself as a rookie, he’s truly focused on just improving as much as possible in all aspects of his game.
“As a rookie I know there’s going to be ups and downs, but I just want to be in a position where I can get better, develop and put the work in.”
In fact, improvement in general is how he will gauge his success as a rookie in the NBA next season.
“A successful rookie season is a season where I get better,” said Dosunmu about his first season in the NBA. “One where I go in, I look at my weight, look at my skills and how I get better. All I look at is ways to improve my game, my mind, my body. Improving my game as a whole is really important to me.”
When asked about what exactly he wants to improve on as a rookie, Dosunmu said he’s focused on the whole package. There’s not one particular thing he’s going to pinpoint on improving but rather continue to make his overall game more well-rounded.
If he’s selected by a team like the Thunder, there’s a good chance he’d need to be ready to hit the ground running, which the 21-year-old is well aware of.
“I could be drafted into a position where I’m able to play valuable minutes right away. I’m trying to come in and improve every aspect of my game,” said Dosunmu.
Regardless of what happens on draft night, Dosunmu is confident he will be successful at the next level. With the right mindset and work ethic, there’s going to be a spot for him in the NBA for a long time.
“Put your mind to something and it can be done,” said the projected first rounder. “That’s my motto, it's been my motto for the past three years. A lot of people wouldn’t have thought I would make it this far. I have a knack for wanting to be the best.”
The 2021 NBA Draft is set to take place on July 29, where Ayo Dosunmu will look to kick off the next chapter of his already successful basketball career.