Chicago Bulls pick Ayo Dosunmu in the 2021 NBA Draft

It is official, the Illinois basketball team just had a player picked in the 2021 NBA Draft.

With the No. 38 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select Ayo Dosunmu from the University of Illinois.

Most Illini fans aren’t used to having a player picked in the NBA Draft. You have to go back to the 2012 NBA Draft to find the last Illinois player to get picked. That player was Meyers Leonard, who was picked by the Portland Trail Blazers with pick No. 11 in the first round.

Ayo now becomes the first guard to get selected from Illinois since the 2006 NBA Draft. That is when Illini legend Dee Brown was picked by the Utah Jazz in the second round with the No. 46 pick.

Ayo Dosunmu leaves a strong legacy at Illinois after being selected in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Ayo’s impact on the Illini will be felt many years beyond his departure. His great play on the court was one thing. He was able to average 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in his final year en route to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

But his presence meant even more to me than his numbers.

Ayo committing to Illinois out of the class of 2018 was the start of something special. Prior to Brad Underwood being able to land Ayo, Illini recruiting was mediocre, at best. There just wasn’t a spark when it came to bringing in top talent.

There were a few good classes under the previous coaching regime, but holes were evident every season the Illini stepped on the court. One of those holes was the fact we didn’t have a leader at guard. We didn’t have someone who could control the ball and the game.

That changed with Ayo.

Ayo joined the Illinois basketball team and sparked new life into a once-great program. His presence alone gave validity to the Orange and Blue. That validity helped land other top talents from around the country. Kofi Cockburn was among the great recruits who pledged to the Illini.

With the duo of Ayo and Kofi at the helm, Illinois would go on a run we hadn’t seen in over a decade.  We didn’t just break a six-season drought of missing the NCAA tournament. We also had back-to-back postseason berths, which was a first since the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.

All Illini fans just watched Ayo get picked in the 2021 NBA Draft. Let’s all remember what this kid meant to the Illinois basketball program. He wasn’t just a legend in the three seasons he was in Champaign, but he put this program back on the map. Thank you, Ayo.