Future Illinois basketball stars gain national recognition

Future Illinois basketball stars gain national recognition

It’s pretty impressive what the Illinois basketball coaching staff has been able to do when it comes to recruiting.

The transfer portal threw everything into a whirlwind, and since the Illini had an older coach, the change could easily have been a struggle. However, Brad Underwood, 60, hasn’t buried his head in the sand. He could have been like 54-year-old Clemson football head coach Dabo Swinney and despised the transfer portal, but that didn’t happen.

Underwood has embraced the change. She approached 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 so far. Only two players remained from that Elite 8 team, so we had to build from scratch.

In the midst of rebuilding through the transfer portal, Underwood was also able to land some top high school talent. Being able to juggle the transfer portal and regular recruiting is something not many coaches can accomplish, but Underwood continues to knock it out of the park.

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

On the list was Illinois’ star 2024 signee Morez Johnson Jr. The big man is a four-star recruit who is the 29th player in the class of 2024. Johnson wasn’t the only future Illinois basketball player to make part of the list. , although.

Illinois commit Jeremiah Fears works alongside Johnson on the USA Basketball national team. 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 be a part of, and Illinois basketball has two players who make the list. That’s a big reason to be optimistic about the future.

Johnson will join the Illinois basketball team this season, and in 2025, Fears will join the team. Hopefully, these two will have at least a year together.

I think Illinois will also have a decent amount of carryovers from the 2024-25 roster. Jason Jakstys will likely be a redshirt freshman in 2025. He will arrive with Johnson from the class of 2024.

Joining those two from the class of 2024 are Underwood’s overseas drawbacks, Tomislav Ivisic and Kasparas Jakucionis, who are registered freshmen despite having overseas experience. I hope both players return for their second seasons.

Most of the experienced players in the transfer portal aren’t seniors either, and that’s what I’m most excited about going forward. The only player likely to leave 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 seasons.

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

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