College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team.

April 18 turned out to be a profoundly important date for this year’s Illinois men’s basketball team. With speculation swirling, Ayo Dosunmu announced, in a 61-second video posted to Twitter, he would return for his sophomore season with the Illini. Illinois coach Brad Underwood detailed, for the first time, the moment he found out his top player would be back during Big Ten Media Day last week in Rosemont.

“I was at home,” Underwood said. “We knew that it was coming out roughly at (6 p.m.). Right as the announcement was happening, I got a call from his dad and he said, ‘Let’s go dancing next year.’ We were in a good place then.”

Cue the celebration.

“I was dancing at my house,” Underwood quipped. “Nobody else saw that.”

Underwood’s part in Dosunmu’s decision was brief. He simply provided information — like the initial feedback for Dosunmu from the NBA this spring. Then he let his now sophomore guard and his family process it and make the choice.

“It was big for our program,” Underwood said of Dosunmu’s decision to return. “I think it was big for him. I think it speaks volumes that he and his family think that Illinois basketball is a place that he can continue to grow and grow at a rate that helps him reach his goals.

“People underestimate how much grateful he is to be at the University of Illinois. How much pride he has in our program. How much pride he has in the state. I think it meant a lot to him to try to help this team get back to the NCAA tournament and have that be part of his legacy as he continues to grow. When this season’s over, I’m sure we’ll have further discussions.”

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