Jeremiah Tilmon signs letter of intent with Illini

Jeremiah Tilmon officially joined John Groce's 2017 class by signing with the Illini on the last day of the early period.

EAST ST. LOUIS -- Jeremiah Tilmon made the announcement on Thursday that everyone in Illini nation has been waiting for since July: He is coming to Illinois after signing his letter of intent.

After a week-long hesitation during the early signing period, the five-star big man inked his name on the dotted line with the Illini on Wednesday -- allowing John GroceJamall Walker and the staff to finally take a breath in what has been a wild ride.

"This is a dream come true," Tilmon said at his press conference on Thursday. "Illinois has been with me from the beginning -- since before I even started high school. Coach Groce, Coach Walker and the entire coaching staff have always made me feel like the No. 1 priority."

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Tilmon announced his commitment to the program on July 11th.

"I feel like that's where my heart is telling me to go." Tilmon told on the day of his commitment. "I have faith in Illinois. That is home for me. So I've decided that's where I'm going to stay."

The happenings from start to finish in the signing period lead you to believe that his heart -- or at least his mind -- wavered when it came time to finalize this decision. But ultimately, Tilmon stuck to his word.

"I know there were questions about why I waited until the end to sign. I had personal things that I needed to deal with so basketball took a back seat for a little while. I remained committed to Illinois the entire time," Tilmon said in response to the delay.

He also said that North Carolina State called a few times, and he was talking to Kansas "quite a bit". Whether Tilmon was in jeopardy of going elsewhere depends on what you choose to believe. What isn't debatable is the fact that this is a huge day for Groce and his program.

The Illini are officially getting a 6-foot-10 big man with plenty of skill and upside. He fills a major need in the frontcourt with a player who is talented enough to make a big contribution right away, and his ceiling is sky-high after development and experience at the Big Ten level.

Illinois has now signed all four pieces of their 2017 class, which currently ranks eighth in the country by Groce announced the signings of top-100 point guard Trent Frazier, four-star combo guard Da'Monte Williams and three-star wing Javon Pickett last Thursday.

Pickett was in attendance for Tilmon's announcement. On the first day of Signing Day last week, he told Illini nation to "shhh" in a tweet because everything was going to be okay. He was right.

"I've been feeling good. Once he told me that he was still going to come, that's when I put out the tweet. Just to tell fans not to worry and to have faith,' Pickett said. "I'm just glad that he came."

And with that touch of crazed suspense, patience was indeed rewarded. Persistence was invaluable as well, as was Walker in this recruitment.

"If it wasn't for Coach Walker, this wouldn't be happening," Tilmon reaffirmed after saying it in July.

He also mentioned that he was seriously considering to wait until the spring, which likely would have opened things up. Groce and Walker met with Tilmon in East St. Louis to try to convince him otherwise.

Tilmon's mother, April Lewis, talked about Walker specifically.

"He is persistent in everything he does. He does not give up," she said.

"I think they will do real well with Jeremiah. I trust them with my son."

Groce released a statement on Tilmon's signing and met with the media on Thursday afternoon.

"We are thrilled to officially welcome Jeremiah to the Illini family," Groce said in the statement. "He has been a top priority for our program for a number of years. Jeremiah has tremendous size, talent and skill. He is a dominant big with unlimited potential.

"Jeremiah is one of the best frontcourt players in the country. He has everything you want at that position, he's skilled, a good scorer and passer, protects the rim, plays with toughness, and understands the game."

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