LIVE! Ayo night at State Farm Center as Illinois hosts Maryland

Sports

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Just 10 months after Ayo Dosunmu left Illinois, his jersey will be raised to the rafters at State Farm Center. The former Illini All-American will be in the house tonight to see a banner with his No. 11 jersey on it lifted at halftime as Illinois hosts Maryland at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

“I’m excited for one because that’s a dream come true for any kid in Chicago, not just for it be your jersey retired in the banner forever but for it to by my home state, that’s exciting,” Dosunmu said before Bulls practice on Wednesday.

The Chicago native was selected 38th by his hometown Chicago Bulls in July’s NBA Draft. During his three-year stay in Champaign, Dosunmu sparked a program turnaround that saw the Illini go from the most losses in a single season (21) in 2018-19 to a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed and Big Ten tournament champion in 2020-21. The 6-foot-4 guard was the catalyst to it all, buying into head coach Brad Underwood’s vision for what the program could ascend to.

“Accepting the challenge of when I came in to the program, we weren’t very good record wise,” Dosunmu said about his legacy. “We had the culture, so to be apart of changing the culture, that’s something very exciting. That’s something you look forward to do, that’s something you enjoy doing.”

“He is the essence of what our program was going through when we were building,” Underwood said. “I have tremendous respect for Ayo for sticking through it, continuing to work, continuing to allow us to coach him in a way that helped establish our culture.”

“It takes more than just talent, or it takes more than just being able to execute X’s and O’s on the court,” added Dosunmu. “And I thought I was a vital piece of that. That probably was the best thing of me being at Illinois, knowing the challenge I accepted when I committed there.”

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