Good Morning, Illini Nation: Gold medal secured

Jun. 10—Morez Johnson Jr. and Jeremiah Fears once again came off the bench for Team USA in the FIBA U18 AmeriCup gold medal game Sunday in Buenos Aires. And the soon-to-be Illinois big man and future Illini guard were as effective as they'd been all week, in helping the U.S. win the AmeriCup for the seventh consecutive time in a 110-70 victory against host Argentina.

Johnson had seven points, seven rebounds and three steals in 11 minutes, 8 seconds of action in the championship game. Fears added four points and four assists in roughly the same amount of playing time. Neither played big minutes in Buenos Aires. Johnson wound up averaging eight points, nine rebounds and two steals in 13.6 minutes per game. Fears put up 6.5 points, three steals, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 12 minutes per game.

Gold medals for Johnson and Fears put them in exclusive Illinois company. The Illini's other gold medal winners include Deron Williams (2008 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2007 FIBA Tournament of the Americas), George BonSalle (1959 Pan American Games), Craig Tucker (1979 World University Games), Jerry Hester (1997 World University Games), Cory Bradford (1999 World University Games), Jereme Richmond (2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship), Ayo Dosunmu (2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship), Ty Rodgers (2022 FIBA Americas U18 Championship) and Brian Cook (2001 FIBA U21 World Championship).

A few other players of note on the U.S. roster — i.e. those with an Illinois offer or at least some interest — include Class of 2025 prospects Nikolas Khamenia, Trey McKenney and Jasper Johnson. Khamenia, a 6-foot-8 forward out of California, averaged 7.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and three assists while shooting 38.5 percent from three-point range. McKenney put up 10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists and Johnson, a fellow '25 guard, averaged 10 points and 2.7 assists to go with 42.3 percent three-point shooting.