CLEVELAND – It should have been the highlight of Ayo Dosunmu’s rookie campaign.
After all, it isn’t often that second-round picks are front and center in the All-Star Weekend’s Rising Stars Game.
If only the former Morgan Park High School standout was wired that way.
In Dosunmu’s world his “glass [is] half empty,” and he wants to keep a close eye on who’s trying to get a sip out of it.
“First, this is a blessing, and I’m honored to be a part of this situation, be a part of this event, but I also come into this knowing I’ve got a long ways to go,” Dosunmu told the Sun-Times on Friday. “I know there’s a lot more for me to accomplish, and I want more.
“I also know there’s some people at home right now that didn’t make the Rising Stars Game, who were drafted higher than me or even felt like I did on a draft night, and they’re going to come back for more, come at me for more, so I always try and treat myself with the glass half empty. You have to motivate yourself to be better. I know how this game goes, and I still know I have to prove things to people. I need to show them that they made a mistake leaving me to the second round.”
And there it was.
The Bulls guard was 345 miles from Chicago, but Chicago made the trip. It always does with Dosunmu. That’s who he is, and that’s likely how he’s going to go about his career.
Chip on the shoulder, head on a swivel, always looking to compete.
“That’s what Chicago means to me,” Dosunmu said. “It means you better bring that competitive spirit. I always want to win. That was the goal coming into this weekend, and that’s the goal for bigger things after this – to win. That’s all that needs to be said.”
No wonder Dosunmu’s teammates embraced the 38th overall pick so quickly in training camp.
All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine were not only impressed with Dosunmu’s grit, but his desire to get better by asking questions about everything and anything.
Now the secret is out nationally.
Last week, fellow Chicagoan Dwyane Wade was discussing Dosunmu on national television, and said, “He can come in right away, he can take charges and he can defend the other team’s best player. Some nights you see him scoring in the 20s. This kid right here is one of those guys, he’s like a Kawhi Leonard, like you got somebody that’s a diamond in the rough. If you continue to add to his game, he can be a featured guy, like a Jimmy Butler once became.”
That meant a lot coming from Wade.
“I heard that, and coming from Dwyane Wade a basketball legend, I was blessed to hear that,” Dosunmu said. “It’s true because I want to continue to get better, I want to work. I’m not a finished product, I’m nowhere near being a finished product. I have so many more skills to dip into. It’s about coming to work every day, hard hat on, and knock down this game brick by brick, unlock different levels of my game.”
That mentality is how bench minutes here and there turned into a regular rotation spot off the bench, and eventually the starting point guard when the Bulls were suddenly short-handed last month.
All Dosunmu has done since the start of the month? How about 11 points, 7.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game, but what mattered to the former Illini great was the seven wins in the last 10 games.
A climb that coach Billy Donovan hasn’t second guessed for one moment.
“To me, it’s all about his makeup,” Donovan recently said of Dosunmu. “You can watch a guy play for 10 minutes and figure out if he can play or not. It takes a long time to figure out that ‘it’ factor. He’s got the ‘it’ factor.
“He’s incredibly motivated. He balances really well that line of being confident but not coming across as arrogant. He’s a fearless competitor. He can’t lose that because, to me, that’s gotta be his identity.”
No concerns there. It’s hard to lose something that is the very fabric of his DNA.
So what’s next for Dosunmu after the All-Star Weekend? Unfinished business.
Even though the Bulls went into the break tied with Miami atop the Eastern Conference, Dosunmu won’t be satisfied until there’s another Larry O’Brien Trophy in the glass case at the United Center.
“I always want Chicago to accomplish the best it can accomplish, go as far as possible,” Dosunmu said. “I saw those [Derrick Rose teams] get close, and now that I’m playing for Chicago, that edge I’ve always had watching the game, I’m in this to help us reach the top.”