The future of basketball in Illinois is bright so far in the U18 AmeriCup

Illinois basketball leaves its fingerprints on the USA U18 basketball team, which continues its winning streak through the U18 AmeriCup.

The USA has played five games in the AmeriCup so far and has dominated each one, winning each time by double-digit points, with the closest game being the first meeting with Argentina, which ended by 22 points. The following game against Belize was the biggest win of the tournament so far, as the USA nearly defeated Belize three times, 150-54.

This strong U.S. team includes two future Illini players: Jeremiah Fears and Morez Johnson Jr. Although they don't get nearly enough playing time, this future Illinois basketball duo is making the most of their time on the court.

Fears has played 12.2 minutes per game and in that time has averaged 7.0 points, 3.4 steals, 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. The most notable number is his 0.6 turnovers per game. This kid is efficient and effective when he's on the court.

Johnson is in the same boat as Fears. He only gets 14.4 minutes per game, but he has made the most of those minutes, averaging 8.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Let that sink in for a moment. He's averaging nearly a double-double and playing just 14.1 minutes per game.

Johnson comes into the Illinois basketball program next season and I see people wondering whether he will be in the starting lineup or not. I honestly don't think that's even a question. Johnson will be in the starting lineup and he continues to prove, even at the highest level in high school, that he is elite and will be a great guy for the Orange and Blue.

Brad Underwood is already developing great rebounding guards, and with Johnson coming in, I think there's a chance Illinois will have the most rebounds in the country.

There will be a lot of stats for the Illini to improve over the next few seasons. Not only will Illinois likely rank near the top in rebounding, but I think we'll see improvement in blocks as well. Last season we averaged 3.8 blocks per game, ranking 110th. I wouldn't be surprised if we were in the top 100 in 2024-25.

A big issue I had with Illinois last season was the inability to get steals. We averaged 4.4 steals per game, which ranked 347th out of 362 DI programs. With Fears joining for the 2025-26 season, I expect that number to go up. He has such quick hands and a really high basketball IQ.

Illinois basketball will improve in quality over the next few seasons. Fears and Johnson have a chance to become a legendary duo for this program.

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

Anna Harden

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