Illinois basketball has made a habit out of missing out on high level recruits out of the Chicago-area over the past decade-plus. Jalen Brunson to Villanova; Cliff Alexander to Kansas; Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor to Duke; Anthony Davis to Kentucky – this list could go on for quite some time, and these are just the notable guys since 2013. The bad luck with Chicago talent has a chance to change this weekend as Illinois hosts 5-star point guard, Ayo Dosunmu.
Dosunmu is a long six-foot-five guard who is regarded as a top-30 prospect in the nation, and he will likely be the first player from Illinois selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game since Jalen Brunson in 2015. With the accolades Ayo has accumulated throughout his successful high school career, one would think the likes of Kansas, Kentucky, and other blue bloods would be all over him, right? Think again. On Sunday night, Dosunmu announced a “final-two” of Illinois and Wake Forest. This recruitment has been thought to be a two-team race between Illinois and Xavier dating back to when John Groce was still in Champaign, so Illini faithful should have a good amount of confidence as Ayo’s decision time draws near.
During his introductory press conference, Brad Underwood spoke on the importance of keeping Illinois raised athletes in their home state. With two of the state’s top four prospects off the board, Ayo is seeming a “must-get,” for Illinois, as he is the odds on favorite to win Mr. Basketball in the state this season. Landing Dosunmu would give Illinois back-to-back Mr. Basketball winners (Mark Smith won the award in 2017) for the first time since 1999, when they landed three in a row – Sergio McClain, Frank Williams, and Brian Cook.
A trio of Ayo, Mark Smith, and Trent Frazier would give Illinois one of the most dynamic back courts in the nation, and reignite an excitement in a fan base that hasn’t seen that much talent on the floor since 2005 when Dee Brown, Deron Williams, and Luther Head led Illinois to the National Championship game.
The day Brad Underwood was hired by Illinois, he made sure to reach out to Dosunmu, whom he had also offered while at the helm at Oklahoma State. To further fortify the relationship between Illinois and the Dosunmu family, Illinois assistant Chin Coleman has a long standing with Ayo’s father, Q, who has made it very clear that he will play a big part in deciding his son’s future.
Finally, Illinois can give Dosunmu immediate minutes. In an offense that will play as many as four guards at times, Dosunmu would step right in to significant playing time at Illinois, something that any player of his caliber places a high importance on.
Why not Illinois?
It has been clearly documented that Illinois is yet to land a commitment for the class of 2018, one in which they have three open scholarships. This becomes worrisome when trying to convince a potential All-American to sign on the dotted line. They are still in the hunt for fellow Chicagoan Talen Horton-Tucker, Finnish wing Elias Valtonen, and top-100 big Bryan Penn-Johnson; but the recent “L’s” Illinois has taken in recruiting do not go unnoticed by these kids.
Wake Forest, on the other hand, is looking at Dosunmu to be the final piece in a class that is hoping to put Danny Manning and the Demon Deacons back in the conversation among the top teams in the ACC. Wake has already secured verbal commitments from two four-star wings, and landing Dosunmu would likely catapult their class into the top five.
Unlike many recruitments, Dosunmu and his family have not hid much from the public eye. He released a large list of potential schools in the summer to thwart off anyone who thought they could try to come in late, and as the early signing period nears, he has made it clear that there are only two contenders for his services. While Danny Manning has shown improvements over his three seasons at Wake Forest, I think the relationship Brad Underwood and company have formed with the Dosunmu family, and the potential to bring his home state school back to relevancy will win out in this one.
Expect Ayo Dosunmu to be wearing orange and blue next season, and expect Illinois basketball to be revived sooner rather than later.