DeRozan attends Ayo Dosunmu Night in Champaign

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It didn’t matter that the Chicago Bulls had an off night. It didn’t matter that it was one of this winter’s coldest days so far.

With Ayo Dosunmu set to enter the University of Illinois’ honored jerseys program on Thursday, DeMar DeRozan knew he had to make the trek to Champaign.

“For him to be my teammate, me understanding the importance of getting your jersey retired, it was definitely an honor for me to be here and see him make that happen,” DeRozan said (via Nico Haeflinger on Twitter). “It’s just fun. I know what it means, I know what it feels like.”

DeRozan, who added he was a “fan” of Dosunmu before they were even teammates, had his jersey retired by his alma mater, USC, in February 2020. So he does know the feeling.

Now, in a way, Dosunmu does too. On Wednesday, he said he was “excited” to become the 34th player in program history to have his jersey raised into the State Farm Center rafters, calling it a “dream come true” and a testament to the culture-building done in his three years there.

After the ceremony, which occurred at halftime of a home matchup with Maryland on Thursday, he reflected further.

“To look back at the commitment I gave to this university and now look at the success I had, it’s just crazy,” Dosunmu said. “Because it wasn’t easy. It was very hard. It took a lot of mental toughness. It took a lot of adversity to overcome. But to look back at it now and look at how, not just me, but this whole program did it collectively to get this program back where it needed to be, I’m excited.”

The Illini (11-3, 4-0) matched the tenor of Dosunmu’s words by continuing their strong start to Big Ten play and defeating Maryland 76-64 – marking the Illinois men’s first 4-0 start in conference games since the 2009-10 season. A perfect result for Dosunmu and DeRozan to drink in courtside.

“It was crazy just knowing the legacy and the mark that I left here – not just on the court, but building relationships with guys, the coaching staff and players,” Dosunmu said. “That’s what it’s all about. Building bonds and building relationships that never can be taken away, that last forever.”

Now, Dosunmu and DeRozan are doing the same with the Bulls.

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