High school basketball: Breaking down the state’s top juniors

While they’ve just completed their sophomore year in high school, a hierarchy has already been established in the Class of 2024 when it comes to the ranking of prospects in the class.

There are four players at the top, including three from St. Rita: the big man tandem of Morez Johnson and James Brown, along with the newest addition, St. Rita transfer Nojus Indrusaitis. All three play play together for the Meanstreets 16U team on the club basketball circuit.

The other top prospect is Peoria Notre Dame’s Cooper Koch.

247Sports has all four ranked among the top 51 players in the country in the Class of 2024.

These four have set themselves apart from the rest of the pack at this early stage. Remember, this class has just two seasons under their belt. There is a lot of high-level basketball to be played over the next two years.

But these are the four players vying for the top spot in the class. They’ve separated themselves from the next wave of prospects, a wave that includes Normal’s 6-9 Jaheem Weber, Curie guard Carlos Harris and Kenwood’s Jaden Smith among others.

A storyline to follow over the remainder of this month and into July is where these top four stack up against one another when the summer dust settles.

Here is a look at the top four prospects in the class (listed alphabetically).

James Brown, 6-9, St. Rita

The player who entered high school with the most hype in the class has continued to generate intrigue and interest from high-major programs across the country. Rivals has Brown ranked among the top 20 prospects in the class and 247Sports has him at No. 32.

With college-ready size, coordination and mobility, Brown is a valuable commodity as a true big man prospect. He has a chance to be a force as he gets physically stronger,

The hands, promising footwork and touch he displays make him effective around the basket as he’s capable of finishing with both hands.

Nojus Indrusaitis, 6-4, St. Rita

There are few players in the class who have been as productive or have as much on the early r?sum? as Indrusaitis.

He immediately put up numbers as a freshman, averaging an eye-opening 19 points a game.He followed it up with a headline-grabbing sophomore season that included big numbers (21.6 points and six rebounds a game) and team success, leading his team to a Class 3A sectional championship.

Although he’s not elite athletically, Indrusaitis plays with feel and instincts. And he already has a veteran skill set, including shot-making ability. He is comfortable shooting and scoring from all areas of the floor.

Those all-around offensive strengths, together with his good perimeter size, make him a high-major prospect.

Morez Johnson, 6-8, St. Rita

There are physical attributes and individual player traits that places Johnson at the top of the class.

And coach Brad Underwood and Illinois are certainly thrilled to have locked him up with an early commitment last fall.

The measurables catch your eye. With a strong frame, long arms, athleticism and an active rim-runner in transition, Johnson simply has the look of a bonafide high-major. But he also brings a coveted competitive spirit and plays his tail off.

Simply put, he’s a player who can help any team win with his rebounding, defensive potential and evolving offensive game.

There is still plenty of areas to polish up with his game, but Johnson flashes outstanding two-way potential, which is why he’s already a consensus top 50 prospect nationally in the class.

Cooper Koch, 6-8, Peoria Notre Dame

Koch is the quintessential skilled 4-man in today’s game. He’s blessed with a big upside while also being extremely productive, averaging 16 points, eight rebounds and nearly four assists a game as a sophomore.

The lanky Koch comes from terrific bloodlines. His father, J.R. Koch, is 6-10 and had a solid career at Iowa in the 1990s. The younger Koch continues to make significant improvements with his game.

While already recognized as a space-the-floor shooting threat — Koch shot 50 percent from beyond the arc — he’s also improved his handle and is becoming more versatile as he matures.

A handful of Big Ten programs have already offered and are heavily involved in his recruitment.

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