Some of us thought this was a possibility, but Illini fans are still pinching themselves a bit after Jeremiah Tilmon's commitment. What'd you think of his process and how Illinois nabbed him?
Shane Heirman: "Well, I think he wanted to go through the process. Like any teen-aged kid, he wanted to be recruited and wanted to look at his options and ultimately decided on loyalty and staying home."
What is Illinois getting in this player? What can Illini fans expect when he gets here?
Heirman: "There's an instant impact with him with his size, mobility, ability to move his feet, ability to protect the rim, his skill set. There's an instant impact that he'll bring right away. He'll bring a little bit of an edge, and along with that he brings some excitement of a home-state kid. He's only scratching the surface of his potential."
Is he easily coachable will he show leadership?
Heirman: "He's a kid who leads by example. He's a guy who's going to do it by showing you he's doing it. There was kind of a knack when we got him that he was a little lazy. Everything's been proving that otherwise. He's been incredibly willing and eager to work and has been an absolute joy to coach."
How's his shoulder doing after surgery? What's his timeline to return to play? And how much did that injury affect his development?
Heirman: "He had surgery about six weeks ago now. He just had his follow-up appointment this past week, and everything looks good. He's on pace. He has another four weeks of a pretty slow rehab, and he's probably looking at another couple months before he's really active again at 100 percent. But he's still working out. He was in the gym this morning and kind of sweating, staying in shape and doing some cardio. So his progress won't be altered too much by the shoulder."
What's he need to improve most as a player? What's the key thing you're working on with him for the next year you have him?
Heirman: "You just continue to build out his skill set. A lot of individual workouts, but he's incredibly gifted from a skills standpoint: his feet, his hands are unbelievable. But he just needs to continue to build around the basket. You put him around the rim, and he's going to finish on pretty much anybody. He's got incredible feet and hands. So just building out that skill set to mid-range and face-up game and continuing to build out as far as he can."
What makes him a five-star recruit? What are his strengths?
Heirman: "I think he brings a mentality, especially to your front line, and giving guards the confidence to play in front of you knowing he's got your back. He definitely brings some edge to your roster, a little chip on his shoulder, toughness kind of guy. From a strengths perspective, offensively you're not going to find a better big in the country to me. He's just got a total skill set: face-up, hooks left and right, can go either direction. And his ability to move his feet, step-step and certain little skills that he has, you're just not finding in many bigs."
A lot of five-star recruits, they all have visions of being one-and-done. Does Jeremiah have that kind of possibility and does he kind of have that vision?
Heirman: "It's not something he articulates. It's obviously a goal and desire to play in the League at the highest level. I don't think there's a set timeline for him. I think he kind of bought into the process right now of getting better every day. I think obviously if he handles what he's supposed to do and puts in the work he's supposed to put in, that's the obvious end goal."
We always talk about pipelines in recruiting. Jalen Coleman-Lands is here, and Tilmon is coming. Tyger Campbell has an Illinois offer. What have Illinois and John Groce done so well to recruit your players?
Heirman: "They've taken the time to build genuine relationships in particular probably more Jamall Walker than anybody and Coach Groce. I think this society and this world we live in is kind of this instant gratification, instant success people are always searching for. It's not an overnight process to build these successful, sustainable relationships in this industry. It takes time. It takes time to build that trust. They've done an incredible job of being persistent and making sure we know we can trust them, and they're going to take care of our guys. They've done a great job. They work their tails off and credit to them. I think the program's probably in the best state it's been in under Coach Groce. I think it's kind of primed to take off too."
What do you take as your responsibility as a prep coach in recruitments?
Heirman: "We try to guide them. We don't try to make up decisions or do anything of that matter. If they're staying on the course, great. If they need a little help, we'll help them. Our job is really to prepare them to be best suited when they get to (college): be ready to play, be ready to handle the workload, to be able to be a member of the community, etc. That's our real job is to prepare them as much as possible and the rest will kind of take care of itself. The recruiting process, a lot of times the family is pretty well-educated on what they need and what they're looking for. Any advice we can offer, we'll do that."
What did you think of Jalen Coleman-Lands' freshman year?
Heirman: "I thought he was prepared. He puts in so much time and energy to be the best player he can be. I don't think people really realize what he was going through with his leg and how much that kind of affected him. To be able for him to fight through and to still be able to have the year that he had. It's kind of scary to think about what if he's healthy for me. I think a good offseason right now. I know he's working his tail off right now and getting that leg almost to 100 percent. I think he's primed to have a pretty big season."