HARVEY (WCIA) — Morez Johnson Jr. has been waiting a long time for his moment to sign on the dotted line. The Illinois basketball recruit committed exactly two years and three days ago, but the 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward had to wait until Wednesday to officially join the program, signing his National Letter of Intent with the Illini at Thornton Township High School.
“It’s crazy,” Johnson Jr. said. “I’m excited, like I’ve been waiting for this day. It’s been like at least seven years, something like that. I’ve been committed for the longest time. The thing that kept me committed is the coaching staff like they’ve been and everything they say they are everything but trust with me. And I still feel like they can help me get to the next level after I leave Illinois.”
Johnson Jr. is one of the highest rated recruits in modern history for the Illini, ranked No. 35 in the nation, according to 247Sports. That puts him at a similar level out of high school to Ayo Dosunmu, Meyers Leonard, Adam Miller and Jalen Coleman-Lands, who were all Top 40 prospects. As a junior at St. Rita last season, Johnson averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game on his way to earning first-team All-State, All-City, and All-Conference honors.
“(I’m) an energy guy, a leader who is locked in all the time,” Johnson said about his game. “I can rebound so I can score by scoring, minimal scoring. I get stops for you on defense. I can do all of it, confident player.
“My jump shot and free throws,” Johnson said about areas he’s looking to improve his game. “I think that’s the biggest thing I worked on isn’t that I worked on everything, but I think that’s the most improved thing I had in the last six to eight months.”
“He’s got a great motor, an engine that revs really high,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “He’s got a skill set that translates in rebounding and he can guard and then he’s physically got a body so I think he can step in right away.”
Johnson Jr. headlines the Class of 2024 for the Illini in a trio of players that also includes Jason Jakstys and Jase Butler. The group currently ranks No. 16 in the nation, according to 247Sports, the fifth time head coach Brad Underwood has landed a Top 25 class in the country.
Jakstys is a 6-foot-10, 200-pound forward out of Yorkville, ranked as a 3-star recruit and the fourth best player in the state. Jakstys averaged 11.5 points, eight rebounds and two blocks last season as a junior.
Butler stands 6-foot-5, 190 pounds with the guard coming to Champaign out of San Anselmo, California. He’s a 3-star recruit and the top graded player in Northern California, ranked No. 169 in the 247 Composite. Butler averaged 17.5 points, five rebounds and five assists per game last season as junior, earning first-team all-state honors.