Illinois Basketball: Impact of looming Ayo Dosunmu NBA Draft decision

Arguably the best player to play for Illinois Basketball since 2010, Ayo Dosunmu has a big decision to make when it comes to what league he will play in next season.

Baring the global pandemic known as Covid-19 canceling the 2020-21 college basketball season, Illinois Basketball has the possibility to be a top-10 team come the beginning of next season. Whether or not they are will largely depend on the decision of Ayo Dosunmu to either enter the NBA draft or to return for one more year in Champaign.

Dosunmu has been the go-to guy since he arrived at Illinois and his role only grew by the game. If he returns to college for one more year, the Fighting Illini will surely stay in the top-25 for good and have the potential to compete for a Final Four appearance.

Although running mate Alan Griffin entered the transfer portal and seniors Andres Feliz and Kipper Nichols graduated, Illinois returns key members Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams and Big Ten freshman of the year Kofi Cockburn to pair alongside Ayo. Even if Dosunmu were to leave, these three would be able to carry the momentum from the past year to this upcoming one.

They wouldn’t have to battle alone though as coach Brad Underwood is bringing in a recruiting class ranked #13 nationally and #2 in the Big Ten. The headliners of the class are Adam Miller (#33 nationally) and Andre Curbelo (#55 nationally), two guards who will give the Illini much-needed depth at the position baring a loss of Dosunmu.

If Dosunmu stays the Illini rotation could be deadly. Throw in two high-scoring sit-out transfers in Austin Hutcherson and Jacob Grandison and Illinois has the potential to win the Big Ten title.

At the beginning of this past season, it was almost a guarantee that this would be Dosunmu’s last in an Illinois uniform. With the recent events of Covid-19 though, many pre-draft workouts and chances for players to improve their draft stock won’t be available for this coming draft.

This won’t help Dosunmu as most scouts don’t give the All-Big Ten first-team guard enough credit. Without these opportunities to display his talents against the rest of the top players in college basketball at the draft combine, Dosunmu could take advantage of returning to Illinois for one more year.

Even if Dosunmu leaves, the Illini will still be in good hands. The aforementioned Andre Curbelo is arguably the most underrated recruit in the 2020 class. With his ability to score, defend and seemingly know where everyone is on the court without looking, Curbelo could certainly ease the pain of losing Dosunmu. Alongside Curbelo is Adam Miller, a teammate of Dosunmu’s in high school at Morgan Park. Miller has one of the cleanest strokes from deep in the class and has a tad more athletic ability than that of his former high school teammate.

Combine these two with Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams and Kofi Cockburn down low, and Illinois could pick up just where they left off, even without Ayo.

Although there were rumors swirling around that if Dosunmu returns then Miller would leave to go elsewhere, the transferring of Alan Griffin could hint that Griffin knew something that we don’t. What this is we may not know for a while, but Dosunmu returning and the new guys incoming could have led to Griffin knowing that his minutes would drop.

Next: Takeaways from 2020 recruiting classes

Even if Ayo Dosunmu leaves for the NBA draft, the Illini will still be in good hands come the 2020-21 college basketball season. If he decides to return, Dosunmu may very well turn into the Big Ten player of the year at the end of next season and could lead the Illini to a place they haven’t been since 2005, the Final Four.