Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Illinois basketball duo showing the type of impact they can have on the program

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In the United States, we win. It is what we do. And on Sunday, the U18 USA Basketball team took home the AmeriCup title with two future Illinois basketball stars in tow.

Was this much of a tournament? No, not really. The biggest scare for Team USA was in the first game against Argentina when it was a single-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. That game still ended up being an 88-66 blowout win.

Team USA ended up going 6-0 in the AmeriCup, with the closest game being that first game. Argentina would face Team USA once again in the championship game, and this time, we didn’t ease up. Team USA cruised to a 110-70 win and, again, some future Illini players left their mark on the game.

The championship game was much of the same for the Illinois basketball duo of Morez Johnson Jr. and Jeremiah Fears. Each player received just over 11 minutes and did some incredible work.

Fears logged 11:25 and finished the victory with four points, four assists, three rebounds, and one steal. Johnson was his usual menace in the paint. He played 11:08 in the game and had seven points, seven rebounds, and three steals.

I had one social media commenter mention that the numbers that Fears and Johnson were putting up for Team USA weren’t incredible. That we were playing against inferior competition, so everyone was getting their chance to dominate the opposing teams.

I am sticking to my guns when using the word incredible. The definition of incredible is difficult to believe. That is the camp I am in right now. It is difficult to believe the numbers Fears and Johnson put up for Team USA in the limited amount of time they were on the court.

Johnson, who is a consensus top 35 player in the class of 2024, only logged 13.6 minutes per game, which ranked No. 9 out of 12 players on the roster. Despite getting the ninth-most minutes, Johnson led Team USA with 9.0 rebounds per game.

In 13.6 minutes per game, Johnson averaged 8.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks. That is a near-double-double average. So, to recap, Johnson was No. 1 in rebounds, No. 2 in steals, No. 2 in blocks, and No. 9 in minutes. That is pretty incredible.

His running mate, Fears, had a great six-game stretch as well. Fears logged 12.0 minutes per game, which ranked No. 10 out of 12 players on the roster. Despite getting the third-fewest minutes on the team, Fears still led Team USA with 3.0 steals per game.

For the tournament, Fears averaged 6.5 points, 3.0 steals, 2.8 assists, and 2.7 rebounds in just 12.0 minutes in each game. He was No. 1 on the team in steals, No. 4 on the team in assists, and No. 10 on the team in minutes. That is pretty incredible.

Illinois basketball has undoubtedly some special players coming into the program. You can see the type of impact Fears and Johnson can make when they are given reserve minutes, just imagine what they can do on an Illini team when they are starting. This duo has a really bright future in Champaign.

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

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