Illini want to see Dosunmu score on break

Illini want to see Dosunmu score on break

CHAMPAIGN — "It's been great" and "We ran a lot" are not ideas that typically appear in sequence.

Yet those were the first two phrases out of Ayo Dosunmu's mouth following Illinois men's basketball's Friday practice.

What does the freshman guard enjoy most about this form of exercise?

"Running," Dosunmu said.

But ... why?

"I love running," he added.

Illini coach Brad Underwood won't mind seeing Dosunmu dash up and down the hardwood at State Farm Center today, when Illinois (3-7) hosts East Tennessee State (8-3) in a 1 p.m. tipoff.

In fact, it's something Underwood expects from Dosunmu over time.

The Morgan Park product is a mere 10 games into his Division I hoops career.

Underwood said he's been more than pleased with Dosunmu's efforts so far, highlighting the game's defensive aspect as a spot in which Dosunmu can continue to improve.

And that leads into the running Dosunmu loves so much.

"Once that clicks for him," Underwood said, "he'll find out that there's two or three or four easy baskets for him in transition every game."

Considering Dosunmu already is averaging 12.0 points per game, that's a big vote of confidence for the newcomer's future.

Here's another: Former Illinois star Deon Thomas believes Dosunmu is a piece around which Underwood can and should build a dynamic roster.

Thomas took in last Saturday's matchup with UNLV as a courtside television analyst, and it's clear he's impressed by what Dosunmu is bringing to the table.

"He's averaging, I think, about 12 points, five rebounds and like three or four assists as a freshman. That's not normal," said Thomas, who put up a 15.1/6.8/0.6 statline as a frosh in 1990-91. "He's definitely going to be a key player ... for the next three, maybe four years."

For his part, Dosunmu is keeping his feet planted firmly on the ground — when he isn't driving to the rim for a flashy layup, of course.

Dosunmu was a nightly sensation for a state-champion prep hoops squad. As Thomas says, even the challenging Chicago Public League cannot entirely prepare one for the Big Ten.

"I've learned that it's next game, next game," Dosunmu said. "You can only play so many great games in a short period of time. You've got to have a short memory."

What does that mean today against a Buccaneers bunch that has made the NCAA tournament — in 2017 — more recently than the Illini's previous appearance of 2013?

Displaying a toughness and fire that should come with a week off between games.

"I feel like we're the best team," Dosunmu said. "Each time we lose ... besides Nebraska, we've been in the game the whole time. If we tweak little things, we'll be right there."