Welcome back, Jeremiah Tilmon! High school basketball in this state needed you.
The big man’s return to East St. Louis following a year at an out-of-state prep school pumps up the Class of 2017 in Illinois. The Illinois commit is a legit McDonald’s All-American candidate, so the addition of a player of that magnitude elevates the class.
Even the potential return of Alonzo Verge, who left last year for a prep school in Florida only to return, is a plus. He pumped life into the 2014-2015 season two years ago with a scintillating season of head-turning performances.
Following the busy summer months where each player was watched, scouted and evaluated closely, here is a look at the top 16 senior prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2017.
1. Jeremiah Tilmon, 6-10, East St. Louis
With size and terrific mobility, Tilmon, a top 25 prospect nationally, is a major factor at both ends of the floor. He’s an instant presence and game-changer for an East St. Louis team that now will be a factor in Class 4A. Chicago area fans can catch a glimpse of Tilmon this December at the Chicago Elite Classic.
College: Committed to Illinois
2. Jordan Goodwin, 6-3, Belleville Althoff
By far the most accomplished and productive player in the class through three seasons. He boasts a state title and a reputation of being an ultimate winner and warrior.Oozing toughness and competitiveness, Goodwin has strength, basketball savvy, leadership and a will that translates to the next level. The perimeter shot is improving and he’s a player who transcends position. Goodwin has that “it” factor.
College: Committed to Saint Louis
3. Justin Smith, 6-7, Stevenson
After playing at another level over the second half of last season, the ultra-athletic forward impressed this summer and is the best uncommitted prospect in the state.This is your “high ceiling” prospect with very tantalizing upside. Smith is still growing into the new-found role of being “the guy” and is becoming more comfortable in that capacity.
College:He’s visited Wisconsin and has upcoming visits to Xavier, Indiana, Villanova and Stanford
4. Da’Monte Williams, 6-3, Peoria Manual
When the light goes on and he’s thoroughly engaged, Williams is a super talent. Now it’s matter of keeping the light on for long, consistent stretches.When locked in and focused, Williams can be a special talent as a big, long combo guard who brings a little bit of the flare and an easy feel for the game.
College: Committed to Illinois
5. Nojel Eastern, 6-6, Evanston
A fixture on the high school basketball scene since his freshman year, Eastern brings great size and unmatched versatility to the perimeter. His size, basketball I.Q and ability to play so many different positions on the floor make him an attractive prospect. Plus, he plays extremely unselfish ––sometimes too unselfish. Eastern looks to pass and make those around him better
College: There is still a lengthy list involved, but he visited Purdue this past weekend and has Michigan State, DePaul, Missouri and others still involved.
6. Alonzo Verge, 6-2, Thornton
Will we see the same type of dynamic Verge we saw two years ago at Willowbrook? If so, he’s a major added attraction in the south suburbs, though his move to Thornton is not 100 percent complete at the moment.Verge can do things from an offensive standpoint very few in this class can.
College:Lets first settle “officially” on a high school for this 2016-2017 season. But this recruitment isn’t very far along in the process.
7. Elijah Joiner, 6-2, Curie
An underrated player who is poised for a breakout senior season for the Condors. Joiner is an efficient scorer and shooter with improving ball skills. He goes out and just plays, competes and in calming way. He has smooth mechanics and range on his jumper and an increased comfort level handling the ball.
College: Visited Illinois State this past weekend and has an Iowa State visit set up later this fall with UAB involved.
8. Javon Pickett, 6-4, Belleville East
The shooting and handle are still coming along, but he plays hard, competes and finds a way to impact games in a variety of ways with his length and toughness.Long and rangy with a body that’s going to easily fill out and get stronger, Pickett brings versatility while finding ways to get to the line.
College: Committed to Illinois
9. Nana Akenten, 6-5, Bolingbrook
A big, athletic wing with a nice shooting stroke that is becoming more consistent by the week. Look for Akenten to be more of a true difference-maker this season with added assertiveness and activity on the glass and on the defensive end.
College: Wide open at this point with a surplus of schools involved, including Nebraska, SMU, Illinois State, UTEP, Valpo and more.
10. Cameron Krutwig, 6-8, Jacobs
A true, on-the-block big man who has a feel and terrific footwork with his back to the basket. Throw in that he’s an elite passing post who will stick an open jumper and his lack of athleticism is quickly overlooked. In fact, as far as big men are concerned he’s on another level when it comes to his soft hands and terrific passing ability. Big and productive.
College: Committed to Loyola
11. Jimmy Sotos, 6-3, Conant
He lived up to the Hoops Report’s pre-spring billing as one of the breakout players. A surplus of offers followed a stellar summer as Sotos showcased an ability to play both on and off the ball effectively as a shooter and distributor.
College: Just wrapped up a visit to Bucknell and has official visit planned to Princeton.
12. Evan Gilyard, 5-9, Simeon
After a solid junior season for the Wolverines, Gilyard had an up-and-down summer. When he’s at his best, he’s putting pressure on opposing teams at both ends of the floor with his speed and quickness.Jet-quick and has the ability to blow by most defenders, especially in the open court in transition. Even with his small stature, Gilyard is fearless in attacking.
College: Although no official visits have been set up yet, Gilyard has Saint Louis, Murray State, Toledo, Tulsa and Western Michigan involved.
13. Christian Negron, 6-6, Larkin
When he puts his work in as a blue-collar, lunch bucket 4-man, he’s an effective player on the glass, blocking a shot, defending, running the floor and finishing around the rim with his length and athleticism.
College: Has set up official visits to Oregon State and DePaul, with UAB, Bradley and TCU all involved.
14. Teyvion Kirk, 6-2, Joliet West
After helping Joliet West to a sectional title in March, Kirk put together a solid spring and summer. With underrated athleticism, terrific length at the guard spot and an ability to make plays, Kirk has been one of the most improved players in the class over the past 12 months.
College: Committed to Drake
15. Demarius Jacobs, 6-2, Uplift
Long, agile and athletic, Jacobs can score the basketball in multiple ways and often in impressive fashion. The potential is there to be a difference-making type of defensive player.
College: SIU has made a strong, favorable push, while UTEP, Denver and Wisconsin-Green Bay are all in the mix.
16. Tai Bibbs, 6-2, West Chicago
A smooth guard who continues to get better and has a knack for using his length and long strides to create, get to the rim and finish. The perimeter jumper is streaky but getting better.
Follow Joe Henricksen on Twitter @joehoopsreport