Dosunmu faces friend, former rival Lucas Williamson in showdown with Loyola Chicago


Photo Courtesy of Kelsea Ansfield / Illinois Athletics

Junior Ayo Dosunmu goes up for a shot over Loyola Chicago’s Lucas Williamson (1) during the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 21. Dosunmu and Williamson both grew up in Chicago, played together on a small-fry team and competed at different universities, yet they are still close friends.

By Gabby Hajduk, Former Sports Editor

Brad Underwood isn’t one for storylines, especially not during the most important time of the year for the head coach of a 1-seeded March Madness team. So, when asked about the meaning of Illinois’ Round of 32 in-state matchup against Loyola Chicago in a Saturday morning Zoom, Underwood couldn’t give much of an answer.
He hadn’t thought about the game beyond the fact that it’s just another stepping stone to reach his, and the team’s, ultimate goal: a national championship. He hadn’t put thought into Sister Jean being on the sidelines, or the Ramblers’ electric 2018 Final Four run or even Ayo Dosunmu’s history with Loyola guard Lucas Williamson. But even he can acknowledge how significant it is for the state of Illinois’ basketball status.
“I have to look at it from the basketball perspective of next game,” Underwood said. “I think it’s great for our state. I think it speaks volumes to their program and the job Porter (Moser) has done. I’m excited to be back in the tournament for our program, where I think it should be … I’m giving a bad answer. I probably haven’t thought enough about that. It can’t be anything but great in the state.”
While Underwood needed to remain focused on advancing to the next round, there’s no denying the game provided extra storylines beyond a typical March Madness matchup. The last time Illinois and Loyola met in the NCAA tournament was in 1963 when the Ramblers beat the Illini in the Mideast regional finals. More recently, the programs met during the regular season in November 2011, with Illinois coming out on top.
Sunday’s game was also the first time since 2016 that Dosunmu and Williamson will face off against each other. Longtime competitors and friends, the pair of Chicago guards have known one another for over a decade.
“I grew up with Ayo,” Williamson said in Loyola’s postgame press conference Friday. “We played on the same small fry team. I know his family really well. We’ve been competing all our lives, and it’s going to be something special in the back of my head. I’m going to be thinking about it going in to play some old friends.”
While the two initially played together growing up, they were on opposing teams in high school, with Dosunmu playing for Morgan Park and Williamson playing for Whitney Young. Both players helped will their respective teams to two Illinois High School Association championships. Dosunmu led Morgan Park to the 3A title his junior and senior year, while Williamson was the only freshman on Whitney Young’s 4A title team and in his senior season, the leader to another 4A championship.
As a senior in high school, Dosunmu averaged 25.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, while Williamson averaged 17.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Both guys were First Team All-State selections.
Williamson might not have the All-American status of Dosunmu at Illinois, but the Rambler senior has made a name for himself in the Missouri Valley Conference as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also averages 8.6 points and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 43% from the field.
Because Dosunmu doesn’t spend much time on social media or responding to messages, other than those from close friends and family, the pair haven’t talked in a while. With Williamson as Loyola’s guard, he gave Dosunmu at times, which will give the pair a chance to catch up a bit.
“I’m pretty focused on my team,” Dosunmu said. “I really don’t be texting a lot of people. Really don’t be on social media. But that’s my guy. That’s my guy, like 10, 15 years strong. You have relationships with people where you don’t have to talk to them every day but the love is always there. He knows that.”

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