In the two weeks leading up to Thursday’s big announcement, four University of Illinois basketball recruiting targets chose other schools.
Iowa State, Michigan, Virginia Tech and Arizona State all grabbed players Illini coach Brad Underwood hoped to add to his roster.
But with the help of a brief video and an orange Block-I, all that disappointment vanished Thursday night. For the second time in six months, Underwood has orchestrated a major recruiting coup within the borders of the home state.
Ayo Dosunmu, the five-star guard from Chicago Morgan Park, made his recruiting decision in a unique ceremony at the Jordan Brand Store near the heart of Chicago’s Loop. After a short black-and-white video showing Dosunmu handling a basketball, the room lights drew low and he walked from the darkness amid cheers wearing a white golf shirt with an orange Block-I.
“I can only pick one school and I’ve decided to stay home,” he said, choosing the Illini over his other finalist, Wake Forest.
“It was tough. So many pros and cons, but at the end of the day I had a chance to build my legacy and make it here.
“I think I’m the best point guard in the country and the best way to prove it is in my home state.”
Dosunmu obviously connected with Underwood and he already had a trusted connection with Illini assistant coach Ronald “Chin” Coleman, who once coached the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team that Dosunmu plays for now. Coleman and Dosunmu’s father, Quam, are long-time friends.
Underwood got Dosunmu’s attention when he showed him how his fast-paced offense rewards guards and reminded him that his team has led the nation in points scored within the first seven seconds of the shot clock. “That’s intriguing to play that fast,” Dosunmu said.
“I think (Underwood) can get me to the next level,” Dosunmu said. “He said I could have the ball right away. He told me I could have a lot of minutes coming out.”
Dosunmu averaged 22 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and two steals last season for Morgan Park, which won the IHSA Class 3A state title, even though Dosunmu injured his foot in the semifinal game and did not play in the title contest.
He becomes the first five-star recruit to pick Illinois since Dee Brown in 2002. Dosunmu wears uniform No. 11, just like former Illini great Brown, who happens to be his favorite player.
“I just wanted to be different,” Dosunmu said after he was reminded that other Chicago five-star players have opted to go to schools like Duke and Kansas. “Not many five-star recruits have decided to stay home. I wanted to change the culture.”
Dosunmu said he made his decision “three days ago,” but kept it secret even from the college coaches until Thursday night.
The commitment from Dosunmu comes the day before Chicago Simeon four-star wing Talen Horton-Tucker begins his visit to the Illini campus. He’s also strongly considering Xavier and Iowa State but would add another highly rated Chicago recruit to Underwood’s class if he picks the Illini.