In the spring of 1990, East St. Louis basketball star Cuonzo Martin, long considered an Illinois lean, signed with conference rival Purdue due to concerns about potential NCAA sanctions coming the Fighting Illini’s way.
27 years later, parts of history have decided to repeat themselves. East St. Louis basketball star Jeremiah Tilmon, who committed and signed with Illinois a few months ago, asked out of his Letter of Intent in early April to explore his options after a coaching change in Champaign. Today, he elected to sign with Illinois’ Braggin’ Rights rival, one that happens to be coached by Cuonzo Martin.
From the official Mizzou release:
“It’s truly exciting to keep a young man like Jeremiah at home with Mizzou Basketball,” Martin said. “Jeremiah, as a player and person, possesses the type of skill and presence we’d like to become a staple of this program. We feel that he has the ability to become a game-changing presence on both ends of the floor. His parents, April and Jeremiah, Sr., raised a son who we feel can really flourish at the University of Missouri.”
Considered a Top 50 recruit nationally by ESPN, Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247 Sports, Tilmon calls East St. Louis home, much like Mizzou’s head coach. Tilmon earned First Team All-State recognition from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and Associated Press following his final high school campaign. He also received an all-state nod from the Chicago Tribune.
This has been one hell of a spring for Missouri’s basketball recruiting fortunes. Martin has convinced all-world wing Michael Porter Jr. to play in black and gold, and a combined effort from Martin and Porter convinced Mizzou signee C.J. Roberts to remain aboard and brought former Washington commit Blake Harris to town. Then Kassius Robertson committed to Mizzou. Now, this.
Behind the scenes, there were some twists and turns in Tilmon’s recruitment. He seemed certain to be a Tiger, then wavered. But it appears he will end up in black and gold after all.
Tilmon is a four-star recruit per Rivals.com and the No. 39 recruit in the class per the 247Sports Composite. Offensively, he is still a work in progress, but he is an elite rebounder and shot-blocker, a perfect complement for an offensive-minded wing like Porter. He averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks for East St. Louis High in 2016-17.
There are a lot of things to like about Tilmon. He has all the physical tools you need to be an elite college post player and easily has NBA level potential.
Not only is he 6’11 and a solid 230 pounds, but he also has the necessary lateral quickness required to be a phenomenal defender at the rim and can move his feet quick enough to slow smaller defenders. He utilizes his verticality well, which means he does a good job of challenging shots at the rim by going vertical and not fouling a lot of the time.
His agility is as good as anyone’s in this class, and he’s capable of being an elite rebounder on both ends of the floor. His second jump timing is excellent. Tilmon also rebounds in space well, has good timing, and is capable of rebounding outside of his own space.
His offensive skill set is still a work in progress like most young big men, but soft hands are a great asset to start with, and Tilmon seems to have a soft touch with the ball.
The problem with Tilmon is that he hasn’t always shown great motivation, and his motor can lack at times. That might not be a problem under Cuonzo Martin, but the reason for his drop in the rankings over the years was that he didn’t do the necessary work to advance his skills and was passed up by other players.
If Martin and his staff can tap into Tilmon’s potential and turn him into more of a workhorse, they’ll have a dominant college big man on their hands. But even a lesser version of Jeremiah Tilmon is still really, really, really good.
A throwback picture of Tilmon and future teammate Michael Porter Jr. at a Mizzou football game.
Rejoice, Mizzou fans. You’re having a pretty fun spring.