WHAT IT MEANS: Jeremiah Tilmon transferring back to East St. Louis

Illini commit Jeremiah Tilmon will transfer back to East St. Louis for his senior season. Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper breaks down what that means.

Five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon announced on Tuesday that he is leaving La Lumiere (Ind.) and returning home to East St. Louis for his senior season.

Tilmon told IlliniInquirer.com in July that he had been exploring options to go back to the metro-east area for his final year in high school, and that included a look into Belleville Althoff. That, of course, is where his best friend and recent SLU commit Jordan Goodwin resides.

But ultimately, Tilmon is headed back to where it all started for him on the high school scene. He stayed at La Lumiere over the summer to take some summer courses. But now, he is given the opportunity to be close to his family.

Tilmon has a very close relationship with his mom, April, and he said that was a big factor in his decision. She will monitor him closely on the academic side, where it is important that he stays on track to qualify.

The original move to La Lumiere was a benefit for Tilmon's academic situation. It wasn't a secret that he had plenty of work to do. This move does bring about cause for concern -- probably more in this area than any other. A source told IlliniInquirer.com that Tilmon still needs to take his ACT as well.

On the basketball court, getting the chance to be the go-to guy during his senior year was a prime opportunity that Tilmon has been eying.

Tilmon averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game last season at La Lumiere. But he was rarely the first option in the offense. La Lumiere will be extremely guard-heavy this year with Brian BowenJordan Poole and Tyger Campbell all in the backcourt. The Lakers also added top-50 prospect Jaren Jackson Jr. to the power forward spot.

While Tilmon has elite status as a five-star prospect, he has yet to be the dominant force game in and game out that is expected of that status and skill set. At 6-foot-10, Tilmon has the length and mobility to affect the game in many ways. He has strong footwork in the post. He is an impactful rebounder. He can hit the mid-range jumper.

In addition, Tilmon has a developing back-to-the-basket game. Last season, he made significant strides in expanding his repertoire. There is still plenty of room for growth, and he has one more year to get ready for Big Ten basketball.

An important catalyst for improvement and fine-tuning will be repetition through touches. Tilmon will get that back at East St. Louis. Although, he won't go up against the same level of competition.

As for the in-state landscape, the state will get its best 2017 product back on the scene. Illinois currently has four players ranked in Scout.com's top 100 for the senior class, and Tilmon is the best of the bunch.

He also remains as the prized possession in John Groce's 2017 class, which is still a work in progress. The Illini missed out on Goodwin, who Tilmon tried to persuade to join him in Champaign. But each made the decision that they felt was best for them.

Some Illini fans have feared that SLU will make a run at Tilmon as well, especially now that he is headed back to their own backyard. With how aggressive Travis Ford and assistant coach Corey Tate came on with their pursuit of Goodwin, it wouldn't come as a surprise if they made that effort. In fact, it is more of an expectation.

But from the horse's mouth, Tilmon recently said the Orange and Blue have no reason to worry

"I'm not messing with SLU," Tilmon told IlliniInquirer.com last week.

To further ease what-if fears, Tilmon shut his ears to pleads from high-level programs who tried to dissuade him from committing last month. He also had this thought of coming back home prior to his commitment -- so it's not one that was all of a sudden planted in his head.

To take a fair look at the situation, being back home places more voices in a recruit's ear. At La Lumiere, Tilmon was away from certain hometown influences. And Illinois has displayed a strong bond with the La Lu program.

On the family side, Tilmon told IlliniInquirer.com that his mom has long been sold on Illinois. It was his dad who sometimes had other things in mind. But Tilmon said his dad was on board when the family visited Champaign in June and told the staff that a commitment was coming.

Of course, the magnitude of Tilmon's pledge and past recruiting nightmares will not allow for a complete exhale until Signing Day. But the Illini staff is persistently working to add more pieces to the 2017 class, and keep the big fella happy -- despite the unrealized dream of pairing Tilmon and Goodwin together.


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