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Illinois Basketball Prospect Preview: Jeremiah Fears

After this year the backcourt is a little thinner. Underwood and staff have Jase Butler lined up in 2024 and now have added 2025 four-star guard Jeremiah Fears.



AZ Compass Jeremiah Fears (2) drives to the basket during the game between Bartlett High School and AZ Compass Prep School during Memphis Hoopfest at Bartlett High School in Bartlett, Tenn., on Saturday, January 6, 2024.

There have been few programs that have experienced the backcourt personnel turnover that the Illinois basketball team has had. In each class since 2020 the Illini have had a backcourt transfer out. This can be attributed to a number of things. The Illini have had serious coaching staff turnover in that time. More than anything though, it might speak to the Illini’s ability to attract talented players. Under Brad Underwood, the Illini guards have always gotten their numbers. Just this year, Marcus Domask is looking to make it three straight years with a transfer guard making an All-Conference Team. With that amount of talent, guys will want to play, and will be willing to leave to find it. However, after this year the backcourt is a little thinner. Underwood and staff have Jase Butler lined up in 2024 and now have added 2025 four-star guard Jeremiah Fears.

1. The Player

Fears comes from a basketball family, with his older brother Jeremy currently playing at Michigan State. Jeremey also seemed close to committing to the Illini, but eventually ended up in East Lansing. While Jeremy is a floor general-type guard, Jeremiah is a natural scorer. He combines a very technically sound handle with nice touch from all three levels to get to his spots. At 6’3″, he isn’t massive but can rise up in the lane over similar-sized or smaller guards and can get to his jump shot. With his handle, he can get defenders off balance and free up enough space to get his shots off. He is a true three-level scorer, with decent finishing with both hands around the basket. His strong handle allows him to go left or right to the basket making him an unpredictable driver, and incredibly crafty around screens.

While his playstyle doesn’t perfectly match, Jeremiah and Jeremy have the same competitiveness. When they played together at Joliet West, often the two of the were jawing at opponents, not afraid of any team they played. This shows most for Jeremiah in his offensive game. He’s never going to be afraid to take shots, and always is looking to score. In that way he also forces defenses to attack him. He constantly draws traps and doubles off ball screens, something the Illini haven’t seen much of since Ayo Dosunmu left for the NBA. He can at times force things, but his technical ability allows him to operate even in traffic.

While he played at Joliet West with Jeremy as the point guard, he has spent his senior season playing for AZ Compass Prep. There he has taken over the primary ballhandler role, although the Dragons run multiple ballhandlers at once. With experience on and off the ball, it will be interesting to see how his role evolves over his time at Illinois.

2. The Resume

As mentioned above, Jeremiah Fears is a four star, ranked 44th in 247Sports, but higher on other sites. He has played up in age for a while, both varsity High School and 17U on Brad Beal Elite. He debuted at 51st on 247Sports and has slowly risen to 44th. According to MaxPreps, Fears averages 14 points, two assists, three and a half rebounds, and over two steals a game for AZ Compass. He shoots 88% from the free throw line but is shooting just 24% from three. There aren’t any stats available from his time at Joliet West, but perhaps when he isn’t the primary option, his percentage could increase.

If he stays in 2025, he will have a chance to increase his ranking. There were rumors he might reclass and join the 2024 class, but it sounds like now he will remain in 2025. I think this is a good move, as he is still a slight build, and has some athletic growth potential as well.

3. The Fit

Like most high-ranking true Combo Guards, Jeremiah Fears can fit with a lot of different configurations. Early in his career, he can play off of upperclassmen and transfers, providing scoring punch and spacing. He can attack at all three levels, and shows both scoring and playmaking going downhill:

He’s also very creative in ball screens. He has a variety of tricks and does a good job of setting his man up to get the best angle off the screen as he can. This allows him to get downhill in a number of ways:

This will really fit well with a guy like Morez Johnson Jr., who will set a million screen and rolls. Defensively and on the glass, he isn’t overwhelming, likely due to a combination of age and size. However, he does have quick hands, and like most talented scorers, is very tough on the fast break:

He has the scoring skills to provide instant impact when he arrives in Champaign. However, it will likely be his ability to fit in on defense that will keep him on the floor. The Illini will hopefully have a number of talented guards in the program in 2025. It’s possible both Sencire Harris and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn will be there, and the Illini have never been shy about adding talent in the portal either. However, once Fears is at the top of the food chain, he can provide the production on par with the other great guards Underwood has had.

Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.