CHICAGO — The name Ayo Dosunmu puts a smile on the face of every Illini hoops fan, and is another step in exorcising the demons of Illinois basketball's past.
Although he hasn’t taken the floor or even scored a basket at the State Farm Center, his decision to sign with Illinois personifies the improvement fans wanted to see under new coach Brad Underwood, making it the No. 2 Herald & Review sports story of 2017.
The signing helps erase the bad feelings of past recruiting failures. The list is long and includes the infamous Cliff Alexander hat fake-out (when he picked up an Illini hat, then put it down and put on a Kansas hat instead). Eric Gordon, Sherron Collins, Jalen Brunson, and more recently, Jeremiah Tillmon, were also "ones that got away."
Dosunmu, a 6-5 point guard from Chicago Morgan Park, is a 5-star player who many consider the best player in Illinois preps currently. He averages 22 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and two steals. He helped guide his team to the Class 3A state championship last season and is a top contender for the Mr. Illinois Basketball award this year.
In an elaborately staged decision presentation that was held at the Jordan Brand Store in Chicago Oct. 19, Dosunmu choose to stay home and play for the Illini over his No. 2 pick, Wake Forest.
Dosunmu said he wanted to change the local basketball culture that saw many top Illinois prospects leave the state for college. Dosunmu became the highest ranked prospect to pick Illinois since his favorite player, Dee Brown. It's not a coincidence that both players wear No. 11.