Devon Dotson talks Bulls fandom, chip-on-shoulder approach to rookie year

Rob Schaefer
·5 min read

Dotson approaching Bulls two-way deal with chip on shoulder originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The night of the 2020 NBA Draft hardly went according to plan for Devon Dotson.

His camp’s intel pegged the 2019-20 All-American point guard who helmed the No. 3-ranked Kansas Jayhawks his sophomore season as a late first or early second round selection. But the proceedings ended with Dotson unpicked.

“It's an even bigger chip on my shoulder,” Dotson said. “That night was a tough night, just not being drafted and hearing your name called.”

A storybook ending came ringing in the form of Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas “about five seconds after the draft ended.” Dotson and the Bulls reportedly in agreed to a contract before the evening ended, which was eventually revealed to be a two-way deal.

“We FaceTimed AK and the whole staff, and he was very excited for the opportunity. I was excited for the opportunity,” Dotson said. “Coach Billy Donovan called me as well, told me the plan to come in and just grind and work your way up. He told me a lot of stories about different players getting undrafted and look where they're at now. So I'm making the most of my opportunities right now and coming in every day and working.”

Dotson grew up about as ardent a Bulls fan as you could imagine, having been born and partially raised in Chicago before his family moved to Charlotte, N.C. when he was in sixth grade. Now, he spends every day donning those threads and gazing up at the six championship banners that hang from the Advocate Center windows.

“I think when I got that jersey, just seeing my name on the back and I was just seeing the history behind this program. It’s a very historic program and culture,” Dotson said of the first moment he felt in awe of playing for the Bulls. “So getting that jersey for the first time, it kind of really hit me and set in. It was just a super cool feeling and just exciting.”

RELATED: Devon Dotson’s dad details son’s NBA path, from Chicago roots to Bulls deal

Derrick Rose, specifically, was an influence on Dotson’s growth and game. He tracked the Simeon product through his high school career, to his solo season at Memphis, to his MVP days with the Bulls.

“You just hear about him (Rose). Growing up, I went to some of his high school games. My dad took me to a couple, seeing him play in the city championship game his senior year and then following him at Memphis, then him getting drafted here,” Dotson said. “Just being in Chicago, Derrick was a huge thing, did a lot of the city of Chicago. So he was a great role model and a great person to look up to.”

Showing him the ropes now? Dotson cited Thad Young, Garrett Temple and Zach LaVine as veterans he’s leaned on -- Young, for advice on how to manage life off the court in the NBA, and LaVine on different methods of attacking defenses. Dotson and Coby White also go back to their days battling against one another at the high school level in North Carolina -- they completed their senior seasons ESPN’s second- and first-ranked players in North Carolina, respectively -- and maintain a great relationship.

Assistant coach Mo Cheeks, a Chicago-born point guard and Hall-of-Famer who happens to have won an NBA title and earned five All-Defense selections in his 16 professional seasons, has been a boon too.

I love just talking to him (Cheeks) and his history and him being a point guard from Chicago,” Dotson said. “We kinda went back and talked about those experiences and just what he did to carve out his niche of staying in the league so long.”

A coincidence, then, that Dotson sees his path to a steady NBA role as coming through hard work and tough-minded defense? He averaged 2.1 steals per game in his second year at Kansas.

“I think I can make a big impact on the defensive end with my quickness and getting into guards, physicality,” Dotson said. “I'm a guy where you don't have to coach effort, so that's an area where I can focus on, the defensive end and really just lock in.”

Of course, signed to a two-way contract, Dotson exists mostly on the fringes of the roster for the time being. He entered the 2020-21 season with 50 games of active list eligibility for the Bulls. While he was inactive for the team’s first four contests, he’s been active the last two -- one a DNP against the Washington Wizards, the other, his NBA debut against the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Dotson checked in for 10 minutes in the latter game's fourth quarter, notching four points on 2-for-4 shooting.

“It was exciting,” he said. “Jan. 1, 2021, making that debut and getting your first NBA bucket. A lot of texts, support from back home and just an exciting moment… Looking to build on it and just ready for what's next to come.”

In a young campaign that has already seen COVID-19 protocols slash the Bulls rotation on multiple occasions, whatever is next could come at any moment. Donovan-coached teams have seen two-way standouts -- e.g. Lu Dort -- earn outsized roles and NBA stability in the recent past.

So, for Dotson, the focus remains on staying ready.

Each and every day. That starts on the days we're not playing, that starts in training camp. Try to be the first one in the gym and the last one to leave,” he said when asked how he stays ready for when his name is called. “That was my mindset. Extra work, any extra work I can do right now to stay ready, whether that's -- if I don't play a game, I'm on the treadmill running, running my conditioning to keep my stamina up. 

“The opportunity is going to come, so when it comes you gotta be ready."

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