BY JOE HENRICKSEN
A little less than five months ago, Jeremiah Tilmon, currently a
consensus top-30 ranked player in the Class of 2017, began actively
selling the prospects of playing at Illinois –– to other prospects.
At the time, the 6-10 junior and East St. Louis native, who is now at
La Lumiere Prep in Indiana, was gauging the interest of other players,
making calls, sending texts and attempting to assemble an elite
recruiting class to join him at Illinois.
It took a little more time in making the decision since those winter
days, with Tilmon recently cutting his list to Illinois, North
Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State and Texas. But Tilmon put his money
where his mouth is and committed to coach John Groce and Illinois on
“I’ve known, really, since this all started,” says Tilmon of favoring
the Illini. “I did think long and hard about it all, and I did want to
see what else was out there and see how it all played out. But deep
down I’ve known since Day 1 where I would go. Illinois was the place
I’ve wanted to be.”
Tilmon, ranked nationally at No. 18 by Scout.com, No. 25 by Rivals.com
and No. 29 by ESPN.com, can now pursue prospective players to join him
on a whole new level –– as a committed Illini prospect.
With Peoria Manual’s Da’Monte Williams and Belleville East’s Javon
Pickett already committed, Tilmon can first set his sights on friend
and AAU teammate Jordan Goodwin of Belleville Althoff.
Goodwin, a 6-3 guard and a consensus top 75 prospect in the country,
is fresh off winning a Class 3A state championship and impressing
everyone who watched him this past spring. The fawning over Goodwin
continued this past weekend while playing in the prestigious Peach
Jam. Now Tilmon will begin working Goodwin to join him in Champaign.
“Now the pressure is on him,” Tilmon said with a laugh of his friend
and the state’s No. 1 prospect. “I’m going to get him to come with me.
I’ll be recruiting him.”
Calling this a big shot in the arm for Groce and the Illinois program
may be underselling the impact of the Tilmon commitment. It’s one
thing to have the new athletic director in your corner when the
program is struggling; it’s another when one of the top players in the
country takes the leap of faith.
“I believe in myself, I believe in the coaching staff and the
program,” says Tilmon. “The job now is to raise the level of the
program and compete for a national championship. We know we can win
big at Illinois.”
What Groce and his staff now have is the highest ranked prospect
headed to the program since he took over the program. As far as a
nationally-ranked prospect, Tilmon is in the range of previous
high-level recruits of past, including Peoria Manual’s Frank Williams,
Lincoln’s Brian Cook, Proviso East’s Dee Brown, Waukegan’s Jereme
Richmond and Robinson’s Meyers Leonard. Each one of those big-named
players finished as consensus 19-29 prospects in the nation.
In addition, this is a highly-ranked player with size and at a premium
position. It’s tremendously difficult to land a true big man prospect
who also has immense talent and potential.
Tilmon is a nimble big with footwork and natural strength. He can run
the floor, protect the rim defensively and shows a soft touch. While
he is still just scratching the surface of what he can become, Tilmon
is a sheer physical presence around the basket at both ends of the