Summer Scout: Jeremiah Tilmon

Illini hoping early work pays off in the long run for five-star East St. Louis forward Jeremiah Tilmon

The 2017 class is huge for the Illinois basketball program, and it doesn’t get any bigger than five-star big man target Jeremiah Tilmon.

The East St. Louis product is the top-ranked prospect on the Illini recruiting board, coming in at No. 16 in the class per the Scout rankings. At 6-foot-10, Tilmon is a pro-style big with a great combination of size, skill and mobility.

John Groce extended an offer to Tilmon last summer, but assistant coach Jamall Walker started recruiting him before he played his first high school game. The Illini have been relentless with their pursuit. It’s hard to overestimate the impact the state’s best player would have on Groce’s program.

What We Saw In July

Tilmon had a good summer on the AAU circuit, even though that is not typically the ideal setting for big men to showcase their talent. He had to deal with a loose style of basketball, while also playing without the ball in his hands. Tilmon was up and down with his point production on the EYBL tour, as Jayson Tatum dominated the rock on the perimeter.

Tilmon said in July that he wanted to shoot the ball more, and he showed that he could be effective with a nice face-up game. The big key was staying aggressive and capitalizing on his opportunities. Tilmon definitely did that during the spring, as he posted the best field goal percentage in the EYBL at 67.5 percent.

In July, Tilmon was an important piece on a St. Louis Eagles squad that reached the Peach Jam finals. Individually, it wasn’t his best showing. He averaged 5.9 points per game, but still shot higher than 55 percent. The big issue for Tilmon was foul trouble, as he fouled out of more than half his team’s games at the event. 

But the Peach Jam box scores don’t accurately portray his abilities. Tilmon was impressive at the Nike Global Challenge in Chicago the next weekend. He showed off his skill in the post — using a variety of moves to create good looks. Tilmon also attacked the glass and ran the floor in transition. There’s no denying his sky-high ceiling as he continues to improve his defense, offensive assertiveness and conditioning.

How He’d Fit In Illini Class

Groce has taken his fair share of big swings on the recruiting trail and he’s loading up for another one with Tilmon. The crucial nature of the 2017 class is highly apparent for the Illini staff. This is their chance to deliver on the bright future they have been selling since arriving on campus. The potential is obvious with Illinois having arguably the deepest talent collection of any state in the country for this age group.

Getting guys like Jordan Goodwin, Da’Monte Williams and others on base early is a big key. Tilmon will likely be one to sit back and evaluate the surrounding pieces before making his decision. But if Groce can land attractive options at the forefront, Tilmon could be the grand-slam get to knock this class out of the park.

Where Do The Illini Stand

There isn’t another program who has pursued Tilmon quite like the Illini have to this point. They’ve had him on campus for games during each of the last two seasons. They’ve been courtside to watch him at every opportunity. In addition, the strength of their relationship with Tilmon and his family (especially his mom) triumphs in comparison to others in the mix.

“The school I’m talking to the most is Illinois,” Tilmon said last month. “They’ve been on me hard.”

While the Illini are as serious as it gets about Tilmon, they have kept things light in their talks. It’s all about maintaining the trust factor and showing genuine interest in Tilmon on and off the court.

“They just basically keep in touch with me,” Tilmon said. “They’re not busy pressuring me or forcing me to do anything.”

That being said, the Illini staff has certainly voiced the importance of getting him on board and doing something special in the very near future. Tilmon is aware of what Illinois could potentially build with the collection of in-state talent.

“It would be good because basically we’re all from the same area," Tilmon said. "It would be supporting our state and representing our city."

The Illini have been viewed as the current favorite for Tilmon, but leading and finishing are two very different things in the wild world of recruiting. It will be important to show true progress on the court and tangible promise for the future. An elite talent demands an elite opportunity, and the Illini need to prove that they can offer that when the time comes.

Sizing Up The Competition

Tilmon’s recruitment continues to blossom with more and more schools entering the fold. Indiana, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Missouri, N.C. State and Purdue have all offered. Tilmon took an unofficial visit to Kansas in July, and they appear to be Illinois’ biggest threat when things heat up. Bill Self has an established pedigree of getting big guys to the NBA and that will be a big sell. Other big-name programs could enter the mix as well.

There is a long ways to go in this one, and the Illini will attempt to hold on tight to their position as Tilmon’s recruitment inches closer to the finish line.

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