CHAMPAIGN — If there was a knock on Ayo Dosunmu before he entered his senior season at Chicago Morgan Park, it was that there were doubts about his outside shooting.
So Dosunmu, now a freshman at the University of Illinois, worked on his shooting; tirelessly and meticulously.
Through his first eight games as an Illini, Dosunmu is shooting the best 3-point percentage on the team at 51.7 percent.
“My senior year I knew my jump shot was a knock on me," Dosunmu said. "People were saying I could drive it but I couldn’t really shoot it. Growing up, my shot has always been my best tool. I had to stay in here and put in work — hard work. I went through times where I didn’t make any; now I’m making some. I’ve got to stay true to myself and keep working and not get complacent."
When head coach Brad Underwood was recruiting Dosunmu, he noticed Dosunmu's ability to finish around the rim was top notch. But it's been a struggle at times at the rim for Dosunmu this season. He's shooting 41.3 percent from the field on shots from two-point range.
“Last year I was finishing better than I was shooting and now I’m shooting better than I’m finishing," Dosunmu said. "It’s about putting more work in now that my jump shot’s falling. I can’t get complacent and not work on my finishing moves. I feel like I was maybe taking off too high around the basket. Maybe I need to take another dribble and get in there.
"With those shots that I’ve been making my whole young career, in high school or AAU, I’ve been making those layups. I feel like it’s an adjustment. I watch film, talk to my coaches and look at all the stats and how I’ve been missing it. It’s about how I respond."
There wasn't a hint of concern in Underwood's voice about his prized five-star freshman. Some of it is because Dosunmu is doing more than scoring. He's averaging 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists while playing strong defense.
Dosunmu is simply experiencing the adjustment to Division I basketball, and the physical game that accompanies it.
“Ayo is playing tremendous," Underwood said. "His numbers are really good. He’s a guy who is known to be a good layup maker. Now you’re not just getting by your guy, but you’re getting by a secondary defender and a lot of time a third defender coming over and they’re big. You don’t see those rotations in high school and that’s something he’s adjusting to. There’s a physicality to getting bumped."
More shots for Frazier
Trent Frazier is the oil in the engine for the Illini. He's shown exactly what he's capable of this season, whether it was the second-half splash against now-No. 1 Gonzaga or the two game-winning 3-pointers that have nearly fallen.
His presence was missed in a loss to Georgetown, a game that Frazier was in concussion protocol.
Frazier attempted one 3-pointer in Sunday's loss to Nebraska. It's "no question" that Underwood wants Frazier to take more shots. He also wants Frazier to be more involved early in games.
“It’s been an emphasis the last two days," Underwood said. "We’ve got to have Trent play well. He’s had a lot of first halves this years that have been awfully quiet. I think it’s about finding a balance with him in transition. It’s about finding a balance in the half court with Giorgi, with the small lineup sometimes, figuring out who’s on the ball, who’s off the ball and creating opportunities. We know Trent’s capable and his decision making is something that we trust and believe in. We’ve got to have the ball in his hands."
Not concerned about the offense.
Illinois has been prone to stretches during games where the offense just doesn't click, leading to scoring droughts.
It happened in a loss to Notre Dame, and on Sunday against Nebraska, the offense never looked in sync. Illinois scored just 60 points, and Underwood said it was as frustrated as he's been offensively this season.
But, Dosunmu believes in the offense. The feeling is the team needs to execute, more than anything.
“I feel like it’s a great offense," Dosunmu said. "We have to figure it out and be able to run it to the best of our ability. I don’t think we’re doing that right now, but we’ve got to trust the process. Rome wasn’t built in one day. At the end of the day we’ve got to stay to ourself, stay together as a family and stay true as a team and we can get better."