College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

Morez Johnson

St. Rita sophomore forward Morez Johnson puts up a shoot against Oak Forest on Jan. 17. Johnson, an Illinois commit, is part of a young and talented St. Rita team that features three other players — James Brown, Jaedin Reyna and Melvin Bell — who hold offers from the Illini.

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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:

Episode 205: So you're saying there's a chance?

Rivals released its updated Class of 2024 rankings on Tuesday. While it's not a complete Rivals150 — there are just 125 players ranked — it's a more substantial look at the best (now) juniors across the country. Here's what stood out:

— Illinois, of course, has a pair of commitments already in the 2024 class in St. Rita forward Morez Johnson Jr. and Windermere Prep (Fla.) guard ZZ Clark. Johnson was ranked No. 66 in Rivals' latest update, and Clark made his debut at No. 124. 

— That Johnson slipped 23 spots to No. 66 in the class was surprising. The 6-foot-8 forward had a strong sophomore season for St. Rita, averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, and he continued to play well in the spring with Meanstreets before getting invited to compete both in the Pangos All-American Camp and for a shot at the U17 Team USA roster. Johnson is still two years away from playing college hoops and the rankings will change, but I'd say he's been undervalued right now.

— The highest-ranked Illinois recruiting target is Lake Highlands (Texas) guard Tre Johnson, who fell one spot but is still ranked No. 3 overall in the class. Johnson averaged 23.7 points and 5.7 rebounds as a sophomore for the Wildcats and has great size as a two-guard at 6-6 and 180 pounds.

— Clark wasn't the only player Illinois has invested interest in that debuted in the rankings this week. There were actually 55 total players who weren't ranked previously. Included in that group is St. Rita guard Nojus Indrusaitis, who made his debut at No. 85. 

— There are six players from the state of Illinois that are ranked. That includes the St. Rita trio, with James Brown leading the way, Iowa commit Cooper Koch out of Peoria Notre Dame and Kenwood teammates Chris Riddle and Jaden Smith. Illinois has offered all but Smith, and Riddle is back in the state after playing sparingly last season at Compass Prep (Ariz.).

— Brad Underwood continues to shoot his shot with open offers out to 31 ranked players in the Class of 2024. The full list:

3. Tre Johnson, 6-6, 180, SG, Lake Highlands (Texas)

4. Bryson Tucker, 7-7, 180, SF, IMG Academy (Fla.)

10. Johnuel Fland, 6-2, 165, PG, Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.)

11. Karter Knox, 6-6, 200, SF, Tampa Catholic (Fla.)

13. Jason Asemota, 6-9, 210, SF, Hillcrest Prep (Ariz.)

15. Trentyn Flowers, 6-8, 190, SG, Rosedale Christian Academy (Md.)

16. David Castillo, 6-2, SG, Bartlesville (Okla.)

18. John Bol, 7-2, 200, C, Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.)

19. Asa Newell, 6-9, 200, SF, Montverde Academy (Fla.)

26. Carter Bryant, 6-7, 190, SF, Fountain Valley (Calif.)

27. Liam McNeeley, 6-6, 185, SF, Montverde Academy (Fla.)

29. Jamari Phillips, 6-3, 170, PG, Modesto Christian (Calif.)

31. James Brown, 6-8, 210, C, St. Rita

37. Jahki Howard, 6-7, 175, SG, Norcross (Ga.)

40. R.J. Jones, 6-9, 240, PF, The Rock School (Fla.)

43. Jonathan Powell, 6-6, 180, SG, Centerville (Ohio)

48. Drew McKenna, 6-8, 200, SF, Glenelg (Md.)

55. Dallas Thomas, 6-8, 170, SF, Parkview Magnet (Ark.)

59. Peyton Marshall, 6-10, 305, C, Kell (Ga.)

63. Dwayne Pierce, 6-5, 190, SG, Christ The King (N.Y.)

66. Morez Johnson Jr., 6-8, 209, PF, St. Rita

82. Steven Solano, 6-11, 235, C, Donda Academy (Calif.)

85. Nojus Indrusaitis, 6-6, 175, SG, St. Rita

89. Curtis Givens, 6-2, 170, Memphis University School (Tenn.)

95. Jaye Nash, 6-2, 170, PG, Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.)

96. Adam Njie, 6-2, 175, PG, Hillcrest Prep (Ariz.)

97. Kon Knueppel, 6-5, 205, SG, Wisconsin Lutheran (Wis.)

98. Chris Riddle, 6-5, 205, SG, Compass Prep (Ariz.)

109. Jason Schofield, 6-8, 205, SF, Avon Old Farms (Conn.)

113. Jordan Vick, 6-0, 160, PG, Southern Nash (N.C.)

124. ZZ Clark, 6-2, 180, PG, Windermere Prep (Fla.)

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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