In the words of his former coach, one young Chicago Bulls guard “has been a winner everywhere he went”. That comes from Lance C. Irvin who was an assistant at Morgan Park High School in Chicago.
There, Irvin came in contact with second-year Bulls guard and Chicago-native, Ayo Dosunmu, the 38th-overall pick in 2021.
Dosunmu was a pleasant surprise as a rookie after a decorated collegiate career.
He earned second-team All-Rookie after being thrust into a larger role than initially expected due to injuries. Those injuries, specifically to Lonzo Ball, could see him assume starting duties once again right out of the gate. Dosunmu spoke on that and plenty more as he joined his former coach and journalist Jason Palmer on the “SportsZone Chicago” podcast on September 12.
Irvin: Ayo’s ‘Got the Right Mindset’
“You can just expect me to just come out and just be better,” Dosunmu assured fans. “Just try to be better in every aspect because I watch a lot of film. I did a lot of studying on my game on how I can prepare myself to be better…try to do what I always do: play the game the right way. Defend, score, facilitate. Just be a better version of myself.”
Dosunmu’s offseason efforts were a hot topic this summer after photos of his improved physique made social media rounds.
He says the added mass helps with navigating screens, absorbing contact, and finishing as well as providing a sense of confidence in his game. He also cites the importance of taking care of his body for longevity.
“It’s all about mind,” he said, “You have to put a lot of work in. In the weight room, lot of film sessions. You have to be prepared because the NBA is a whole different game than college.”
Perhaps the biggest difference is that Dosunmu and the Bulls have a looming contract decision after this season as his deal expires. They can make him a restricted free agent by extending the qualifying offer – worth $1.9 million, per Spotrac. But there figures to be some outside interest in the promising youngster that could drive his price up.
Especially if he is successful while potentially filling in for Ball.
Dosunmu is Ready to Step Up
The Bulls need their top perimeter defenders – Ball, Alex Caruso, and Patrick Williams – to get and/or stay healthy for them to have any chance at a longer playoff stay than five games. But Dosunmu says that he is ready to step up and step in for Ball.
Ball is expected to miss training camp and, possibly, the early portion of the regular season. Dosunmu says he is ready and capable.
“I mean, definitely,” Dosunmu told Irvin and Palmer, “I always have the confidence. That’s something that’s always there. And then, the skill, of course…I think I’m, you know, ready for that…Whatever is asked, I’ve prepared myself. I went over it with my coaches, my dad, my brother. Lot of long nights, lot of early mornings. So, whatever I’m asked to do, I’m just going to try to be the best at whatever I’m asked to do.”
Last year, that meant being thrown to the wolves with no experience. He ended up leading the team with 77 appearances including 40 starts.
He admitted that the grind of an 82-game season started to get to him after the All-Star break.
Dosunmu averaged 11.8 points, 6.8 assists, and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 52.8% from the floor and 39.7% from beyond the arc in the first 18 games after he took over for Ball up until the break.
His production dipped to 10.4 points, 3.9 assists, and 2.7 rebounds in the 23 games (20 starts) after the break.
He slashed .515/.317/.688 in that span.
Dosunmu’s Lessons Learned
“I learned that it’s no days off…The NBA, you know, you got one of those dudes each and every night. No matter what the record is. It’s one of those guys getting paid $25 million…you have to guard one of those guys each and every night.”
He didn’t forget to hold the team as a whole accountable, either, saying that fans can expect a more consistent team next season.
Without Ball, the Bulls will likely count on a platoon of options including free agent acquisition Goran Dragic. None of them can offer a 1-for-1 replacement. But Dosunmu offers the closest facsimile to Ball on both ends and should be better this year.