Illinois Basketball: Illini class of 2024 showing out on the high school hardwood

Dec 30, 2011; Champaign, IL, USA; The Big 10 logo on the Assembly Hall court before the start of the
Dec 30, 2011; Champaign, IL, USA; The Big 10 logo on the Assembly Hall court before the start of the / Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois basketball has seen success on the court this season, currently sitting at 12-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten while holding onto the No. 14 spot in the latest AP Top 25.

The success the Illini are seeing on the court right now is great for the fanbase, and it probably doesn’t hurt on the recruiting trail. Brad Underwood has already signed three talented recruits for the class of 2024, and while the Orange and Blue are taking care of business at the college level, our 2024 signees are doing good work at the high school level.

Morez Johnson Jr. is the most notable name in the Illinois class of 2024, as he is a top 40 recruit in the country and has a profile that seems to be rising by the day.

Behind Johnson’s 17.8 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.3 blocks, and 2.4 steals per game this season, the Thornton Wildcats boast a 15-2 record overall and 3-1 in the Southland Conference.

Thornton is looked at as one of the best teams in the state of Illinois, as they currently rank No. 2 in the state in class 3A. One of the two losses for the Wildcats was to Homewood-Flossmoor by one point. They are the No. 2 team in class 4A. The other loss was to Bloom, which received votes to be in the top 10 in class 4A.

Johnson will only continue to help Thornton get notoriety as one of the best teams in the state of Illinois. Night in and night out, he continues to dominate. The talented big man is coming off a game on Monday night against Niles North where he put up a career-high 30 points. He also had 17 rebounds and five blocks in the 67-60 win.

Illinois basketball is also bringing in some great help from the class of 2024 to pair up with Morez Johnson Jr.

While Johnson is the star of the show right now, let’s also shine some light on the great years that Jase Butler and Jason Jakstys are having on the high school hardwood.

On Monday night, Butler had one of his best games of the season in a close loss to St. Joseph. He dropped 33 points for Branson. The Bulls have won four out of the last five games and sit at 13-6 on the season and 3-0 in the Marin County Conference.

Butler’s season has been special. Ranked as the No. 162 player in the class of 2024 by 247Sports, not many people expected this kid to have a big year. But he has surpassed all expectations.

Over the last few games alone, Butler has put up some big numbers. He nearly notched a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds against San Marin. He had 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block in a win over Archie Williams. Butler also finished with 10 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the victory over Redwood.

Not only is Illinois getting a dominating big man in Johnson, but we are also bringing in a player in Butler who can play multiple roles on the basketball court. I can see Illinois using Butler at the No. 1, 2, or 3 spots on the court.

While his team, the Yorkville Foxes, hasn't had the same success as Butler or Johnson’s teams, Jakstys has been a main staple in helping the Foxes get above .500 on the season.

Illinois is bringing in Jakstys as a nice depth piece. This kid has a chance to play early minutes because he brings a unique skill set to the court. Jakstys is a mobile big man. Usually at his 6-foot-10 size, a player can sometimes be like a newborn giraffe. They are trying to find their legs and they look kinda awkward. Not Jakstys.

Jakstys is extremely athletic and can do great things at multiple levels on the court. He can be the big man that his size is asking for, but he can also pick and pop anywhere on the court, including from three-point range. I also love Jakstys’ ability to just move and find open space. He will be an asset to Illinois, just like he has been an asset to the Foxes.

On Monday night, Jakstys dropped 11 points in a close loss to Stevenson. In the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic back in late December, he helped Yorkville go 2-2 and was named to the all-tournament team with averages of 21 points and 10 rebounds in the four games.

I get excited about all recruiting classes that come into the Illinois basketball program, but this recruiting class feels different. The class of 2024 feels like one of those classes that helps Illinois get over the hump and do special things in March. The future is so bright for the Orange and Blue.