Watch CBS News

Top Illinois boys basketball recruit commits to staying in-state for college

Top Illinois boys basketball recruit says he's staying in-state for college
Top Illinois boys' basketball recruit says he's staying in-state for college 03:10

CHICAGO (CBS) – The state's top-rated senior boys basketball player will be staying in state for his college career, but first, he has plenty of goals to achieve in high school, with a new team.

CBS 2's Matt Zahn had the story on Morez Johnson Jr, who stands above his peers, literally.

Zahn:  "What's it like to be 6-foot-9 in high school? 

Johnson: "Everybody looking up like, 'Oh my God. You're tall!'"

And he rises over them figuratively as well. Johnson is the top-rated recruit in Illinois in the Class of 2024 and a top-30 prospect in the nation.

"I think he's one of the best players in the country. Obviously, playing with Meanstreets over the summer ... I've seen everybody. He matches up just as good with anybody, and maybe better than anybody," said coach Tai Streets.

Johnson played AAU ball in the Meanstreets that was started by Streets and he's playing for him at Thornton. Johnson transferred from St. Rita after their coach left along with a couple of other key players.

So what has it been like integrating Johnson into his new team?

"Easy, because you can put him anywhere," Streets said. "That's the beautiful part of it. He's an unselfish guy."

Johnson said the transition has been easy and that he's grown up with many of his teammates.

One of his first orders of business at his new school was signing his letter of intent to his future school, the University of Illinois. Despite shooting up the recruiting rankings and garnering attention from plenty of other colleges, Johnson never wavered in his commitment to the Illini.

He originally committed on Nov. 5, 2021, and officially signed earlier this month. Two years is a long time, so why did he decide to commit to the school?

"The coaching staff was great to me," Johnson said. "I know I can trust them. They're gonna push me to be a better person and better player on the court."

He added that being close to home is important as loved ones can still come to his games.

Back when he committed to Illinois, Morez had only been playing organized basketball for about four years, starting at age 12. Unlike many of his peers, Johnson wasn't all in on the sport from the start.

So before he started playing ball, what was he doing?

"I played tennis a little bit and I played the trombone," Johnson said.

Johnson said he finally got into basketball when his dad saw the Meansteets were holding tryouts and took him. He made the team, decided to try out for his school's team, and he's been playing ever since.

It seems like focusing on basketball was a good choice. Among his lofty goals was getting to play in the McDonalds All-American Game. He of course has team goals with Thornton too.

"Conference and state," Johnson said. "We trying to get down state, but we gotta take it day by day."

Coach Street added the "sky's the limit" for the young man, the same sky where it seems Johnson resides much of the time.

His goals seem achievable this year. Johnson's No. 2-ranked Wildcats beat No. 1 Kenwood 52-45 in the Chicago Elite Classic.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.