On March 14, Ayo Dosunmu celebrated a Big Ten title with a tribute to his favorite player: In the shower of the locker room, he posed with one arm wrapped around the conference title trophy, and another cradling his face in a somewhat vacant expression.
Laker fans will find the resemblance unmistakable: a direct homage to Kobe Bryant moments after winning the 2001 Larry O’Brien trophy.
“Mamba is someone I always looked up to when I was younger,” Dosunmu said. “It’s just really unreal just being on the court in L.A. and competing, but I try to just do it for him really. That’s one of my motivations.”
The path to get where Dosunmu has been – at the highest level of college basketball with the 24-7 Illini – to where the Lakers went with Bryant is an arduous task. But there may be a shorter path if the 21-year-old guard finds himself landing with Los Angeles, which has the No. 22 pick in the July 29 NBA draft.
It’s been a long time since the Lakers have kept their first-round pick: In 2018, they took Mo Wagner, who they subsequently traded the next year in their machinations for Anthony Davis. On a team built to win now, there’s not a lot of time to develop someone raw, who needs hand-holding or a gentle learning curve, and the further back in the draft, the higher the risk that whomever the…