Future of Illinois basketball proves bright in U18 AmeriCup thus far

The Illinois basketball team has a duo playing in the U18 AmeriCup, and they are making the most of their time on the court
Australia Opals v United States
Australia Opals v United States / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Illinois basketball has its fingerprints on the U18 USA Basketball team as they continue their tear through the U18 AmeriCup.

The United States has played five games in the AmeriCup thus far, and they have dominated every game. Winning by double-digit points in every contest, the closest game was in the first matchup against Argentina, which ended up being a 22-point victory. The following game, against Belize, was the biggest win of the tournament so far, as the United States nearly triple-upped Belize, 150-54.

A part of this powerful United States bunch are two future Illini players, Jeremiah Fears and Morez Johnson Jr. Despite not getting nearly enough playing time, this future Illinois basketball duo has been making the most of their time on the court.

Fears has been logging 12.2 minutes per game, and in that time, he has averaged 7.0 points, 3.4 steals, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. The most eye-popping number is his 0.6 turnovers each contest. This kid is efficient and effective when he is on the court.

Johnson is in the same boat as Fears. He is receiving just 14.4 minutes per game but has made the most of those minutes by averaging 8.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks per contest. Let that soak in for a second. He is averaging a near-double-double and is only playing 14.1 minutes per game.

The future is unbelievably bright with Morez Johnson Jr. coming into the Illinois basketball program and Jeremiah Fears waiting in the wings

Johnson is coming into the Illinois basketball program next season, and I see people questioning whether or not he is going to start. I honestly don’t think this is a question at all. Johnson is going to start, and he continues to prove, even at the highest level in high school, that he is elite and is going to be a great big man for the Orange and Blue.

Brad Underwood already develops great rebounding guards. With Johnson coming in, and think there is a chance Illinois leads the nation in rebounds.

There are going to be numerous stats that improve for the Illini over the next couple of seasons. Not only will Illinois likely be at the top in rebounds, but I think we could see blocks improve. Last season, we averaged 3.8 blocks per game, and that ranked No. 110. It wouldn’t shock me to see us in the top 100 in 2024-25.

A big issue I had with Illinois last season was the inability to pile up the steals. We averaged 4.4 steals per game, which ranked No. 347 out of 362 DI programs. With Fears coming in for the 2025-26 campaign, I fully expect that number to rise. He has such quick hands and a really high basketball IQ.

Illinois basketball is going to get a quality upgrade in the next couple of seasons. Fears and Johnson have a chance to be a legendary duo for this program.

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