Derek Piper, Illini Inquirer lead basketball reporter
Fiction. Jeremiah Tilmon told me himself that he'd like to be a one-and-done. What five-star talent doesn't? The NBA is a lifelong dream, and mid-first round picks make about $1.5 million in their first season. But to get that, you not only have to be one of the 20 best pro prospects in college basketball, but in the world.
Jeremiah has an NBA future. There's no doubt about that. He's 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. He is a mobile big man, who can get up the court, rebound, step out to the mid-range and finish around the basket. And he's only going to get better. Jeremiah has not been a dominant player by any means at this point in career. That is what most people look for in determining who has one-and-done potential.
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1688486-five-illini-takeaway... To be fair, we have yet to see how good Jeremiah will be by the time he puts on the orange and blue in his first collegiate game. His back-to-the-basket game is still in the developmental stages. He has very good -- if not great -- footwork. Credit to the La Lumiere coaching staff for helping him make big strides in that area. I expect that to continue this coming fall when Jeremiah's shoulder is ready to go. He showed the ability to make some moves in the post last year. I really like his drop step. But it's been said with him before, he needs to have an arsenal of go-to moves to really maximize his production.
With that in mind, it may take him an extra year in college to reach that level. He needs more physical development as well, and getting as much time as possible with Adam Fletcher will be to his benefit. One summer stretch before his freshman year will produce results. But if you give Fletch two offseasons, you can bet Jeremiah will be bulked and chiseled with an NBA-level body.
In my opinion, that second year is going to be the difference-maker for Jeremiah not only for his game but for his NBA future. Can he come in and put up good enough numbers as a freshman to get drafted? Sure, Deyonta Davis averaged 7.5 points and five rebounds per game at Michigan State last year and he was the first pick of the second round. Guys like Diamond Stone and Chieck Diallo also made the jump to find themselves in the early part of the second round. But second-round contracts are shorter with less money and not often fully guaranteed.
While Jeremiah said he'd like to make the jump after one year, he also said he'd stay if he needed to. He has the right mindset. One of the first things he said about his goals in Champaign was to do well academically. He wants to be in position to make the choice that suits him. As it looks right now, I'd say two years in Champaign is what the tailor calls for in order for Jeremiah to be developed and showcased appropriately to be a first-round choice in the NBA.
Jeremy Werner, Illini Inquirer publisher
Like you said, Derek, Tilmon certainly has NBA talent and early-entry NBA talent. He obviously has the size (though he needs to add lean strength) and growing skill set that will play in the NBA. But his shoulder injury has stunted his development a bit, and he doesn't strike me as an Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins or Jahlil Okafor, a man among boys who will completely dominate the college game from his first tipoff.
However, Tilmon's skill set is ahead of where, say, Meyers Leonard -- who is more of a physical, athletic freak than Tilmon -- was at this stage in his development. He can use both hands in the post and is developing that mid-range jumper. Also, at La Lumiere Prep, Tilmon is playing against some of the country's best big men in the country. At Robinson, Leonard frequently played against post players almost a foot shorter than him. Tilmon should be more prepared to contribute early due to where he plays and who he plays against.
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1688143-werner-mailbag-july-..., Tilmon isn't exactly entering an NBA falling over themselves for low-post scorers. Diamond Stone had a phenomenal freshman season at Maryland (12.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg) and went in the second round (40th overall). A.J. Hammons was a first-team All-Big Ten center and a dominant force in the paint and went 46th overall. Indiana's Thomas Bryant wisely returned to Indiana for his sophomore season after he received feedback that he wouldn't likely be a first-round pick, despite averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds. Remember, first-round picks earn multiple years of guaranteed contracts. Second-round pick contracts are non-guaranteed.
Meanwhile, less productive, less skilled but more athletic big men like Willie Cauley-Stein, Myles Turner, Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel and even Leonard have gone in the lottery. NBA teams want athletic post players who can score down low, be a threat from midrange and defend the ball screen and the rim on defense.
Tilmon is an old-school big man who must show he can play in the new-school game. I expect him to make a big impact as a freshman at Illinois. He'll rebound, get easy buckets down low, pass well and protect the rim. But it's those intricacies of the game that he must improve and prove: hedging ball screens, sticking with perimeter players and how he moves off setting ball screens on offense (pick-and-pop shooting or rolling and finishing at the rim).
Tilmon has the potential to do all those things well. I just agree with Derek that it'll take him two years of college to prove it enough to NBA teams to earn a first-round grade. Tilmon will make an immediate impact at Illinois, but he could be one of the country's better college big men as a sophomore.