St. Rita’s Morez Johnson (21) shoots the ball in the game against Mount Carmel.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times
Whether seriously or sarcastically, high school coaches throughout the state have recently added the term “transfer portal” to their basketball vernacular.
Due to the increasing amount of player movement in the high school game, they’ve taken the college basketball lingo and run with it.
When seeing all the players jumping from one school to another, it’s no wonder.
Looking back now at the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s ranking of the top 50 prospects in the Class of 2024 when the season ended in March, nearly half of the top 50 — 23 in total — have transferred at some point in their high school career. With several players transferring multiple times, the total number of transfers among the top 50 prospects is a whopping 31.
Some high-profile players have left the state (James Brown, Cole Certa and Nojus Indrusaitis), some have returned (Lathan Sommerville) and the best stayed but has a new home (Morez Johnson).
Here is a look at the five highest-profile transfers in the state this year and the impact they will have in their new home, including three who will give their teams a chance to be playing in Champaign in March.
Morez Johnson, Thornton (from St. Rita)
There isn’t anything more impactful than the state’s best player — one who is a 6-8 manchild who will be playing in the Big Ten next year — transferring in for his senior year. Last season he averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Coach Tai Streets took a one-year transfer not too long ago, Alonzo Verge, and the star guard turned in a Player of the Year performance in Harvey.
With his arrival, Johnson, who is committed to Illinois, will immediately elevate a Thornton team that finished an uncharacteristic 14-12 last year into the preseason rankings. He’s a physical force who is better than he was a year ago after an impressive offseason. With the addition of three other key transfers, coach Tai Streets’ team will be in the top 10.
Cooper Koch, Metamora (from Peoria Notre Dame)
The defending Class 3A state champs have quality talent returning and then this summer added Koch, a 6-8 space-the-floor, fill-the-stat-sheet big man who is headed to Iowa.
Throughout the summer there were rumors Koch, whose father JR Koch also played at Iowa, would be leaving Peoria Notre Dame. The move finally became official in early August.
The return of Tyler Mason, Matthew Zobrist and Luke Hopp was going to keep the red-hot Metamora program among the state’s better teams. But the addition of Koch, who put up 18.6 points, eight rebounds and 3.5 assists as a junior, gives the Redbirds a legitimate shot at repeating.
EJ Mosley, Romeoville (from St. Laurence)
He’s just a junior, but the 6-0 point guard is a dynamic talent and one of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects in the Class of 2025.
Mosley already has two varsity seasons of playing in the Chicago Catholic League under his belt. Last season he impressed, averaging 15.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Now he becomes the catalyst for a Romeoville team that hopes to challenge Joliet West in the Southwest Prairie East.
Rajan Roberts, Kenwood (from Proviso West, via Joliet West)
Roberts left Proviso West following his freshman year and played with Joliet West this past summer. However, he enrolled at Kenwood at the beginning of the school year.
There were few, if any, freshmen who were more productive last season than Roberts. He was a scoring weapon, albeit for a downtrodden Proviso West team that won just eight games. Now instead of being a marked man as the go-to player, Roberts can blend in with a talent-filled roster while coach Mike Irvin and the Broncos will have three years with the talented guard.
Lathan Sommerville, Peoria Richwoods (from The Skills Factory)
Following his freshman year at Peoria Notre Dame, Sommerville spent the past two years at The Skills Factory in Atlanta. He’s returned to Peoria as a high-major recruit –– he’s committed to Rutgers –– and one of the top-ranked prospects in the state.
The 6-10, 245-pound big man is among the top 100 prospects in the country in the Class of 2024.
Somerville, the son of former Bradley star Marcellus Sommerville, joins a Richwoods team that won 25 games and welcomes back leading scorer Artavious Smith (18 ppg).
A year ago Richwoods was knocked out of the sectional by Metamora. If those two were to meet again this March, it would be a battle of two former teammates –– and two high-profile big men transfers: Sommeville vs. Koch.