CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Wednesday was National Signing Day, which meant that the Illinois Men’s and Women’s basketball teams have announced their 2024 classes. Brad Underwood and Shauna Green welcomed classes of three and two players, respectively.
Both classes boast some of the best players not just from the state of Illinois, but from the nation.
Men’s Basketball Class of 2024
Morez Johnson Jr. - Forward, 6-foot-9, Thornton Township H.S., Riverdale, Ill.
Johnson has been committed to Illinois since November 2021, but finally made it official.
Brad Underwood described Johnson as “arguably the best big in this class” and a “defender, rebounder, high-motor guy that’s turning into a really good offensive player.”
The four-star recruit is the top-ranked player in the state of Illinois. Johnson is also one of the leading candidates for Mr. Basketball in the state. As a junior, he earned first-team All-State, All-City, and All-Conference honors.
“When you’re the University of Illinois, you want to keep your best prospects at home,” Underwood said. “It’s always a key for us to target those players, and to sign Morez, as we did with Ayo Dosunmu, obviously bodes well for our program.”
Jason Jakstys - Forward, 6-foot-10, Yorkville H.S., Yorkville, Ill.
“Jason is a guy that fits the way we’re playing,” Underwood said.
He’s a three-star recruit and is the No. 4-ranked player in the state of Illinois. In terms of what to expect from him on the court, Underwood described him as “Coleman Hawkins-like.”
“Jason is a pick and pop guy. He can really shoot it, can handle it. He’s got great bounce and quickness,” he said. “He knows that the future is where his best basketball lies.”
Jase Butler - Guard, 6-foot-5, The Branson School, San Anselmo, Calif,
Butler is a 3-star combo guard and the top-ranked player in the Northern California region. The Bay Area native chose Illinois over nearby Stanford, UC Santa Barbara and University of San Francisco.
In Butler, Underwood and his staff find a guard that fills a need in the guard rotation. Underwood pointed to guards on the current roster, namely Nico Moretti and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn, as being undersized.
Jase Butler (2024 6'5) will be a player the lookout for at Cali Live & Section 7 this June! @JaseButler4— SIMPLY BASKETBALL (@simplyy_bball) June 7, 2023
A CG that plays with excellent pace, can get you a bucket or create for others when needed. @bransonhoops @FrankieBur @LakeshowHoops @CoachAntG pic.twitter.com/RsWeR2k5pb
“Big Ten-ready body” is how Brad Underwood described his frame.
Butler is described as a guard with a high IQ and great passing, but his strongest weapon is his shooting. He’s a 50% three-point shooter making him a valuable asset to a Brad Underwood team.
In his press conference, Underwood added that he does not anticipate any further additions to the high school class.
Women’s Basketball Class of 2024
Berry Wallace - Forward, 6-foot-1, Pickerington Central H.S., Pickerington, Ohio
Wallace was a five-star recruit, sitting at 20th in ESPN’s HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings, and has the potential to be a McDonald’s All-American once the time comes.
She was a dual-sport athlete in high school, also playing volleyball at the varsity level for three years in addition to basketball for four. She’s a dangerous scorer that can knock shots down from all three levels.
Hayven Smith - Center, 6-foot-6, Lincoln-Way East H.S., Frankfort, Ill.
Smith was the first commit of Shauna Green’s 2024 class. She averaged a double-double as a junior, putting up 14 points and 10 rebounds a game to go with two blocks. She was also a dual-sport athlete in high school, playing volleyball for three years.
“We addressed a size issue, needing to add that with Hayven at 6-foot-6,” Green said.
The Illinois native chose the Fighting Illini over Purdue, Harvard, Butler and other Division I schools.
Green believes that Smith could be something of a diamond in the rough, saying “I think she’s someone that some people didn’t recruit as hard but I think she could end up being a very, very good player in our league.”
SHOES TO FILL
Both Brad Underwood and Shauna Green highlighted the importance of their respective recruiting classes.
Green talked about the ins and outs of players, including ‘Covid kids’, affecting the recruiting process. The potential return of players like Kendall Bostic and Brynn Shoup-Hill was highlighted when talking about the good and bad aspects of having an experienced squad.
Green’s squad has six seniors, two of them fifth-years.
“We’ve got some holes,” Underwood said. “We’re gonna lose Terrence Shannon and Marcus [Domask], so you’ve got some spots on the wing.”
Justin Harmon, Quincy Guerrier, and Coleman Hawkins round out a group that has six seniors. Coleman Hawkins and Max Williams round out a group that has four graduate or fifth-year seniors.