It feels like a lifetime since professional sports were being played. But now it seems as though there might be light at the end of the tunnel. This is great news for all sports fans around the nation. For Illinois basketball fans in particular, the ending to the 2019-2020 college basketball season left a hole in their hearts. It would have been the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since the 2012-2013 season. Since then, there have been many departures from last year’s team, including senior Andres Feliz and breakout sophomore Alan Griffin (transferred to Syracuse). The more pressing situation is the status of NBA decisions by star players Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Both announced their intentions to enter the NBA Draft, but have not signed with an agent as of yet. Now, because of all the roster turnover, the team looks like a shadow of itself.
With this being said, I thought it be best to get some insight from a guy who knows a thing or two about coaching and recruiting in college basketball, ESPN’s National Director of Recruiting, Paul Biancardi. In Part 1 of my interview, I talk with Paul about his thoughts on Ayo Dosunmu and whether or not he should stay in the draft.
On April 15th, Ayo Dosunmu made his intentions clear, as he declared for the NBA Draft. Furthermore, in an interview with Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, Dosunmu’s father stated that his son was “98% or 99% committed to remaining in the draft.” This begs the question that every Illinois fan is asking: should Dosunmu stay in the draft? In his former head coaching stints at Wright State, Boston College, Ohio State, and Saint Louis, Biancardi has dealt with plenty of student-athletes who were contemplating a similar decision. He states, “If that’s the case, then he should keep his name in because I have him as an early to mid 2nd round pick.” There is no question that he is a talented player, but it’s Dosunmu’s intangibles that stick out to Biancardi.
“As far as his game goes, he has that alpha dog, versatile guard type personality. He’s tough. He’s competitive. And he thrives in transition. He’s a very good straight-line driver with a really good pull-up game. I like the way he can guard either ones or twos. His numbers were respectable this year in terms of his field goal percentage. This year in particular, he was the go to guy for Illinois,” Biancardi said. Dosunmu’s leadership qualities have been lauded by others. So it’s no surprise that Biancardi shares the same sentiments.
Despite all the praise, Dosunmu still has some areas that he needs to improve upon. Last year, Dosunmu’s three-point percentage dropped, and Biancardi addressed this struggle as a something Dosunmu must improve upon. “Obviously, he needs to continue to improve his three-point shot, and not only improve it but work on his range.” Last year, Dosunmu’s field goal percentage was 48% his three point percentage was 30%, and his free throw percentage was 75%. These are all solid numbers, but they can be better.
At the NBA level, scouts look for guards that are what they like to call “180 shooters”. Biancardi explains- “These are guys that are 90% from the free throw line, 50% from the field, and 40% from three. That’s what the NBA looks for.” Currently, Dosunmu is short of that criteria. However, another year of working on his craft could get him to that status. Biancardi loves the idea of student-athletes returning to school if they believe they can improve upon their draft stock. “I come from a coaching background where if someone tells me they think they are good enough, I say you can get better.”
This isn’t a knock on a player. Rather, it is encouragement for these players to get better at their craft. Biancardi also recognizes that this option might not be for every player saying, “I don’t know Ayo’s family background enough in terms of his need to move on to the professional level. But from the outside looking in, I would say put your name in, get your feedback, and if it is a 2nd round pick, I would then ask: can you work yourself up to a 1st round pick?” Former Kentucky player PJ Washington, comes to mind. Washington took a similar route a few seasons ago and was able to achieve a 1st round selection.
Join us for Part 2 of my interview with ESPN’s National Director of Recruiting, Paul Biancardi, where we’ll discuss the Illinois’ upcoming 2020 class, what’s their ceiling, and why Fighting Illini fans should be excited. For more on Illinois basketball follow me on Twitter @asethi03.