Over the next two weeks, lead basketball reporter Derek Piper is breaking down 10 of Illinois basketball's top recruits with their updated scouting report, what they have to prove this spring on the AAU circuit and where the Illini stand with them.
Today: Jeremiah Tilmon, center La Lumiere (Ind.)
The orange-tinted spotlight has been on five-star big man Jeremiah Tilmon since the Illini began their pursuit of the 2017 class.
That beaming light has been ratcheted up to the max over the last month. To many, Tilmon seemed like the subject of another five-star chase by John Groce that would provide empty results. Tilmon has always liked the Illini a great deal, but so did others that ultimately turned them down.
However, the narrative on Tilmon has been different. The La Lumiere (Ind.) big man has become a real possibility, and the Illini are currently in a dog fight to land him.
Tilmon has averaged around 16 points and nine rebounds per game this season. La Lumiere (25-3) is the No. 5 seed at the DICK'S Sporting Goods High School Nationals that will kick off on Thursday.
Tilmon is a pro-style big man, who is capable of making an immediate impact at the next level. He demands touches in the post with an ability to finish with his back to the basket, or he can step out and knock down the mid-range jumper. Tilmon utilizes his natural length and build at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds to his advantage when finishing around the rim. He will become even more dangerous as he adds to his arsenal of post moves.
Tilmon's ability to rebound and defend in the paint will translate right away to the college game. He has a knack for cleaning the offensive glass, and he can block shots at the other end. Overall, Tilmon has the potential to be a complete college big man and a lottery pick in the NBA Draft. When he reaches that ceiling will depend on him fully developing his offensive skill set and improving his motor.
What he has to prove this spring
After playing a supporting role to Jayson Tatum and Tyler Cook last summer, Tilmon is now the focal point of the St. Louis Eagles on the AAU circuit. He averaged 7.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in the EYBL regular season last year. Those numbers don't jump off the page, but he did have the highest field goal percentage (67.5) of anyone in the league. That shows that he simply didn't get enough opportunity.
This time around, Tilmon has to prove that he can be a dominant force against the best of the best. He has to put up big numbers on a game-by-game basis, while turning maximum potential into production when he catches the ball in the paint. Tilmon's post game has improved since last summer, and he'll look to take another step forward in the coming months. He'll also need to prove that he has the motor to be great at the next level.
How he'd fit at Illinois
Tilmon's top-10 ranking in the 2017 class tells you everything you need to know about how he'd fit at a crucial position on Groce's depth chart. The Illini haven't had a McDonald's All-American big man since Brian Cook, and you can bet that Tilmon will be one. He would also be the game-changer in a class that can get Illinois basketball to where it wants to go.
That designation stems not only from his talent, but his ability to attract his AAU teammate Jordan Goodwin as well. Tilmon would be a Day-One starter in Champaign, and he would give them a high-level interior threat.
Where Illinois stands
The buzz on Tilmon has run rampant over the last few weeks. The Illini talk got louder and louder, and it has been coming from the right places. Illinois appears to be in the driver's seat in this recruitment, and they are the one program that can get Tilmon to commit this spring. Connected sources have backed that narrative - some of which believe that it will get done.
But as with most five-star recruitments, it isn't a simple game. The waters become difficult to navigate as you approach the destination, and the winds shift at any turn. Tilmon's situation has followed that description. Multiple sources have indicated that Tilmon and his mom have swayed back and forth on whether they want to pull the trigger now or wait it out. There was word that Tilmon may have been contemplating a commitment before the DICK'S Sporting Goods event, but it didn't happened.
It could happen afterwards. Or it could drag out longer. At this moment, one thing is pretty clear cut. Tilmon is weighing whether to commit to Illinois or wait to pick the blue-blood destination of his choice. He could be the catalyst that takes a good start in the 2017 class for the Illini (Javon Pickett and Da'Monte Williams) and makes it a Big Ten bombshell.
If Tilmon is still going back and forth after this weekend, the Illini may try to get him back on campus before the AAU season kicks off. The Orange and Blue would likely put the hard sell on with athletic director Josh Whitman having an active hand in the effort. Tilmon last visited Illinois back in December for the reopening game at the State Farm Center against Notre Dame.
"It feels like home," Tilmon told IlliniInquirer.com during the visit.
Groce and his staff have been gearing up for this home-run swing. Tilmon could be the one that goes over the fence, or he could be yet another that falls short at the warning track.
Sizing up the competition
The list of other potential suitors for Tilmon is pretty daunting. That is why the longer his recruitment drags out, the more fearful Illinois will/should be. Tilmon already holds offers from the likes of Kansas, Indiana, Michigan State, North Carolina and many others. If he waits throughout the summer, he will likely be able to go wherever he wants in the country.
Kansas and North Carolina have been two noteworthy heavyweights. Kentucky head coach John Calipari just watched him at a La Lumiere practice on Saturday as well. The Wildcats are heavily recruiting five-star La Lumiere wing Brian Bowen, and they could extend an offer to Tilmon down the line as well.
The blue-blood options are intriguing for Tilmon, and for good reason. Right now, it is Illinois versus that field of heavy-hitters. Those top programs haven't been bashful in their attempts to throw shade at the Illini.
But as a source told IlliniInquirer.com a few weeks ago, Illinois is in "an enviable position".