High school basketball: Jeremy Fears Jr. signs with Michigan State as anticipation and expectations rise at Joliet West

Jeremy Fears Jr.’s return to Joliet West never seemed likely. As recently as August Fears had committed to play his senior season at the prestigious Overtime Elite league in Atlanta. The suddenness of the return has added to the excitement at the school and in Joliet as basketball season approaches.

Fears played at Joliet West as a freshman and then transferred to La Lumiere, a prep school in Indiana, when his sophomore season was delayed due to COVID. He achieved national prominence at La Lumiere, which plays on ESPN regularly.

Fears won two gold medals playing with USA teams in the summer. He’s the highest-ranked player in the state, currently checking in at No. 33 on 247sports. It’s been nearly 30 years since a Joliet player reached those heights.

The six-foot guard had his choice of a dozen high-major colleges and picked Michigan State. He signed his National Letter of Intent at a ceremony at Joliet West on Wednesday.

Choosing Michigan State was an easier decision than deciding where to spend his senior year. Fears’ father, Jeremy Fears Sr. still isn’t sure that returning home was the right move for his son.

“We will see how it goes,” Fears Sr, a standout player at Joliet Township and in college, said. “I hope it works out. I’m just worried that some of the accolades that he wants, like being a McDonald’s All-American, aren’t as realistic now. But he’s happy and he’s in a good space and that’s important.”

One of the major draws for Fears Jr. was the chance to play with his brother, sophomore Jeremiah Fears.

“It was tough to make this decision to come home but I just felt that deep down inside this is what was meant to be,” Fears Jr. said.

Joliet isn’t exactly a destination town. And as far as high schools go, Joliet Catholic is seen as the top choice by many residents. So when a kid that could play anywhere in the country chooses Joliet West, it resonates with the school and the community on a level far greater than just basketball.

“It was a group decision with his family and sometimes in group decisions everyone doesn’t agree,” Joliet West coach Jeremy Kreiger said. “But there is a lot to be said for someone who wants to blaze their own trail and become a legend from their hometown.”

More than 70 scouts and executives from 29 NBA teams attended Overtime Elite’s Pro Day in late October. There’s no doubt that Fears chose the less glamorous spot for his senior year.

“Yeah, it has definitely put a chip on my shoulder,” Fears Jr. said. “But we have a great schedule this year, playing all the best teams. This is where I wanted to be. I want to win a state championship in Joliet.”

While the Fears brothers are just starting their basketball journey together, a pair of brothers from Rolling Meadows are farther along. Cameron Christie, the younger brother of current LA Laker Max Christie, signed his letter of intent to Minnesota on Wednesday.

Like Fears Jr., Max Christie made the uncommon decision to stay and play at his home high school and signed with Michigan State. It all worked out well for Christie.

Rolling Meadow’s Cameron Christie stands with his parents after signing his commitment to Minnesota on National Signing Day.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Cameron, a 6-5 senior, hasn’t received the avalanche of hype his older brother garnered. But that could change this season. Rolling Meadows has an excellent team and Christie is an elite scorer. He’s prepared for the extra effort every defender will put on the brother of a Laker this season.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Christie said. “It’s a privilege to be able to have that and I’m confident in my own abilities. I’m not trying to block that out at all. It’s just going to add some more entertainment to the season.”

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