Ayo Dosunmo embraces cultural change | Food and cooking

CHICAGO – Ayo Dosunmo is no stranger to changing culture. From his three years at the University of Illinois to his junior season with the Chicago Bulls, it’s an experience Dosunmo craves—the opportunity to set the tone and define an era for the team.

Thursday marked the end of one era for Dosunmo when he retired Illinois from his college jersey, recognizing this year’s All-American and USA Today title for his role in lifting the team to three winning seasons and the Big Ten title.

In Chicago, Dosunmu faces the same challenge – helping to rebuild his hometown team’s legacy.

“Being a part of changing the culture is a very exciting thing,” Dosunmu said. “I am looking forward to doing it. This is something I enjoy because it takes more than talent, it takes more than being able to do an X and O on the court.”

In his first months with the Bulls since they picked him with the 38th pick in the July draft, Dosunmu quickly became the sixth man to offer defensive length and tenacity while averaging 6.1 points and 1.2 assists. But his role is about more than just providing depth.

Dosunmu’s rising year has been all about adaptability – matching the different cycles during the COVID-19 outbreak. It is also about responsibility as the 21-year-old is studying how to become a professional. Even as a rookie, he’s played as the man who got him back on the court, turning off fellow veterans like DeMar DeRozan to defuse conflict in moments of high emotion.

Building a selfless identity for the Bulls has been the main focus of Dosunmu and his teammates throughout the season. Although coach Billy Donovan first charted that goal in training camp, Dosunmo said it was followed by an intangible turn as the Bulls spurred on their winning streak in November and December.

“It’s something you can’t see clearly but feel every day when you come to the gym,” Dosunmu said.

Dosunmu has molded himself to become a captain in Illinois, with him finishing 15th all-time in three seasons while effectively restoring the team’s place on the NCAA basketball chart.

Dosunmu misses a lot about Champaign – although it wasn’t the food, he shyly admitted, adding that he spent most of his meals on the Chipotle campus. But the rookie didn’t allow himself to wander far from his college roots, watching every game of the team’s first season without him.

This legacy followed Dosunmo to Chicago – even the Bulls’ practices. Rookie Donovan on Thursday mocked the fact that Eleni coach Brad Underwood is driving his best start in Big Ten history despite losing Dosunmo, who chose to forgo his first season.

Although Dosunmu is the Bulls’ youngest player, Donovan said he felt confident trusting the rookie after watching him grow up with Underwood.

“Everything Brad and I talked about as it relates to IU, he was very knowledgeable about all the things he said he was – as a competitor, as a team and as a worker,” Donovan said.

At United Center, the question never arises when Dosunmu scores a game. From the moment he lines up at the scorer’s table, the audience begins with a low, excited sound. When the novice runs into the field, he is greeted with the loudest cheers of the night.

Even after a year into his career, Dosunmu is quickly becoming a source of pride for fans.

“You can see when he gets into the game, obviously there are a lot of Eleni alumni and fans here in Chicago,” Donovan said. “People are really proud of what he did and what he accomplished.”

Dosomino was well aware of the long and storied history of basketball in Chicago.

He grew up with Illinois legend and longtime NBA guard Kendall Gill who lives next door to his aunt, offering advice and encouragement as he rose from high school to NBA player. When he was 11 years old, Dosunmu glued himself to TV watching Derrick Rose’s MVP season from Chicago with the Bulls, a season that assured Dosunmu of a concrete NBA career for any kid in town who wanted to work.

After his childhood spent pursuing local legends, Dosunmo is fully aware of his role as Chicago and Illinois.

“I love showing love to these people,” Dosunmo said. “Every day I wake up and come here, it is a blessing, to live my dream and do what I love in my city.”

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