Illinois Basketball: Illini legend Ayo Dosunmu declares for 2021 NBA Draft

It is official, the Illinois basketball program is losing one of the greatest players to ever suit up for the team.

On Tuesday afternoon, via ESPN’s The Jump, Ayo Dosunmu announced that he would be forgoing his ability to come back to the Illini and will be entering the NBA Draft. This is news most expected but it is still painful to hear.

Most people saw this announcement coming when Ayo was introduced as part of the senior night festivities in Champaign. A junior being honored on senior night usually means he is departing the program. Honestly, though, Ayo stayed a year longer than I thought he was going to stay.

When Ayo was first committing to Illinois, he mentioned in his announcement that he was going to be in Champaign a year or two. I thought he was going to hold true to this. I also believe that if the pandemic didn’t hit last year, he would have been gone. Illinois would have made the NCAA tournament, and Ayo would have been displayed on the biggest stage. This would have increased his draft stock exponentially.

What is the legacy Ayo leaves with the Illinois basketball team?

Greatness. There is only one word to sum up the three seasons Ayo was with the Illini and that is with the word, greatness.

From the jump, pun intended, Ayo was a sensation with the Orange and Blue. Committing to a team that was 14-18 the year before had to be tough, but then coming in and rebuilding the program had to be even tougher.

Ayo’s first season with the Illini was a disaster record-wise. The team only put up 12 wins for the entire year, and they had a winning percentage of 36.4-percent, which ranked as the No. 5 worst winning percentage in school history.

Shoot, kids today are transferring out of programs that are extremely successful and where they will have the keys to the team in the foreseeable future, trust me, we are experiencing it right now. But that wasn’t and isn’t what Ayo is about. Despite having just 12 wins as a freshman, this kid stuck with the Illini and was dedicated to the rebuild.

A 21-win performance as a sophomore was the signal that the Illini were back. Ayo helped lead the way with his 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists that season. The only thing that topped Ayo’s sophomore campaign was an even better junior year. This past season, he ended up dropping 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per contest.

Legendary status on and off the court is what I will remember about Ayo. It’s not who we are underneath, but what we do that defines us. Greatness. Legend. Ayo. Thank you for everything.