CHICAGO — Ayo Dosunmu got off the phone with his agent about 90 seconds before the 38th overall pick of Thursday night’s NBA draft in Brooklyn was announced.
Dosunmu knew what was coming.
Knew that his hometown Chicago Bulls were about to draft him in the second round.
Knew that his long night of watching pick after pick announced without hearing his name in the first round was about to end.
Knew that the crowd at the Bracket Room — located between the south loop and near west side in Chicago and stuffed with family and friends — was about to go wild when the pick was eventually revealed.
Not that you could tell by his face.
Dosunmu didn’t give anything away after he tucked his phone back in his pocket and turned his attention back to one of the six TVs on the walls in the VIP section set aside for his family at the sports bar.
“I couldn’t react,” Dosunmu said about the time between the phone call from his agent and when he was officially drafted. “I wanted to wait until it was set in stone. You never know what could happen.”
What happened was Dosunmu getting drafted by his hometown team. That he fell to the Bulls, though, was unexpected.
Most of the draft projections had the 6-foot-5 guard slotted in as a first-round pick.
The Dosunmu family felt particularly strong about his chances in the final 10 picks of the first round. They were eying the No. 22 pick in particular.
Even after it changed hands from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Washington Wizards in a trade that included nine-time All-Star and 2017 Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook heading west to join forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Dosunmu might not have become the 16th first-round pick in Illinois basketball history, but both he and his family were thrilled when Chicago made its selection.
“They were saying they hoped I could make it there,” Dosunmu said about his discussions with the Bulls before the draft. “They didn’t think I would make it there. Once it got to 32 or 33, I told myself I was going to the Bulls. When the pick came, it was my time.”
Jamarra Dosunmu was already considering how she might follow her son’s professional career. The Dosunmu family was a regular presence at every Illinois game pre-pandemic. Relocating to follow her son was one thought Jamarra had.
“Now to know my baby is home — my baby is home, my baby is home — it’s amazing,” Jamarra said. “Absolutely, this was a dream come true. I couldn’t have written a better script. … The Bulls weren’t necessarily on my radar at least. I didn’t even think about it. We plan, and God plans. I’m just grateful.”
Quam Dosunmu said his son had “a great interview” with Chicago during the pre-draft process.
Ayo didn’t work out for the Bulls leading up to the draft, but there was fairly regular communication — even if it was a long shot he’d be available when they selected in the second round.
“They kept close,” Quam said. “They know we’re in Chicago. They saw the work. … Second (round), first. You know what? We’re in the best situation we’re supposed to be. We’re grateful, and we’re humble.”
Ayo spent the better part of Thursday night alternately locked in to the draft broadcast and checking his phone. Don’t think for a minute he wasn’t keeping tabs on which players were drafted ahead of him. On which teams passed him over in the draft.
“I know there’s not 37 players better than me,” Ayo said. “Me and you both know that. I’m going to prove them wrong. I know that. I’ve got a list already, but I’m blessed. I’m blessed to be able to play for the Chicago Bulls, a team that I watched growing up.
“I’m going to bring energy. I’m going to bring playmaking ability. I’m going to bring an extra chip on my shoulder. I’m going to defend and play as hard as I can.”
The next step for Ayo following the draft was still to be determined Thursday night as his draft party turned simply into a party. He hadn’t received any major details or instructions from the Bulls, although NBA Summer League starts Aug. 8 in Las Vegas and will be his likely first foray into professional basketball.Any disappointment about being a second-round pick instead of one of the first 30 selections goes away when the work with the Bulls begins, however.
“The motivation and everything is there,” Quam said. “We’ll just take it to another level. He knows he’s a professional. He’s been acting and training and been coached as a professional for the last four years. Now, he puts in the work.
“Everything will be reevaluated in two years or three years. At the end of the day, we’ll be the last man standing as usual.”