Future Illinois basketball stars get national recognition

Illinois basketball has some great talent coming into the program, and that talent is now getting some national recognition
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifying - Puerto Rico v United States
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifying - Puerto Rico v United States / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

It is quite impressive what the Illinois basketball coaching staff has been able to do when it comes to recruiting.

The transfer portal sent everything into a whirlwind, and with the Illini having an older coach, the change could have easily been a struggle. Brad Underwood, age 60, hasn’t stuck his head in the sand, though. He could have been like Clemson football head coach Dabo Swinney, age 54, and pooh-poohed the transfer portal, but that didn’t happen.

Underwood has embraced the change. He took the transfer portal head-on. Over the past few seasons, Underwood has added key pieces to the Illini roster. It all culminated in an Elite 8 appearance in 2024. The 2024-25 roster is the biggest challenge he has faced yet. Only two players were holdovers from that Elite 8 team, so we had to build from the ground up.

In the middle of rebuilding through the transfer portal, Underwood has also been able to land some huge high school talent. Being able to juggle both the transfer portal and regular recruiting is something not many coaches can manage, but Underwood continues to knock it out of the park.

And when I say huge high school talent, I mean huge. On Tuesday, the 2024 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team was announced. This roster includes some of the best players from around the country.

Making the roster was Illinois’ star 2024 signee, Morez Johnson Jr. The big man is a four-star recruit who is the No. 29 player in the class of 2024. Johnson wasn’t the only future Illinois basketball player to don the roster, though.

Working alongside Johnson on the USA Basketball National Team is Illinois commit, Jeremiah Fears. Fear is a four-star recruit who is the No. 32 player in the class of 2025.

This is an elite roster for one of the most prestigious teams a high school basketball player can make, and Illinois basketball has two players who made the roster. That is a massive reason to be optimistic about the future.

Illinois basketball is set up to have a great roster for the 2025-26 season

Johnson is coming into the Illinois basketball team this season, and in 2025, Fears is going to be joining the squad. These two will, hopefully, have at least a year together.

I think Illinois will have a decent number of holdovers from the 2024-25 roster as well. Jason Jakstys will likely be a redshirt freshman in 2025. He is coming in with Johnson from the class of 2024.

Joining those two in the class of 2024 are Underwood’s overseas snags, Tomislav Ivisic and Kasparas Jakucionis, both of whom are registered freshmen despite having overseas experience. I expect both players to be back for their sophomore campaign.

Most of the experienced transfer portal players aren’t seniors either, and that is what I am most excited about in the future. The only player who is probably a lock to depart after the 2024-25 season is Ben Humrichous. Kylan Boswell and Tre White are only juniors, and Carey Booth and Jake Davis are just entering their sophomore season.

While all but two players departed the Illinois basketball program after this past Elite 8 run, I don’t expect that after the upcoming season. I think Illini fans, for the most part, should be able to get used to the names we are going to see in 2024-25.

dark. Next. Projected Illinois basketball lineup with the addition of Kasparas Jakucionis. Projected Illinois basketball lineup with the addition of Kasparas Jakucionis