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Jeremiah Tilmon declares for NBA draft

The sophomore’s name hasn’t popped up on prospect lists, but gathering feedback from front offices still holds value.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Auburn vs Missouri Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilmon is dipping his toe in the NBA draft waters and will see whether the reception is better than lukewarm.

The sophomore announced his intentions late Monday morning, roughly an hour after PowerMizzou reported on his plans. “It’s always been a dream of mine since I started playing basketball to make it to the NBA,” the East St. Louis native said in a release. “I want to get everything I can out of this process. I’m excited to learn from it and get the feedback I need.”

While the 6-foot-11 post player improved last season, particularly as a distributor on the low block, he still remains foul prone, isn’t an elite rim protector and hasn’t shown evidence of a face-up game that stretches his range.

In the past, Tilmon’s size and skill set would have been coveted among front offices. That’s in doubt today, though. Now NBA general managers and coaches increasingly put a premium on big men who can stretch defenses, whether it’s knocking down 3-pointers, making read-and-react decisions as a passer or just spacing the floor to lift a defense off the baseline.

In theory, Tilmon’s deft footwork, soft hands and stellar work as a screener offer him a platform to evolve into a stretch five. The question is whether a franchise would be willing to be on that theoretical upside. Meanwhile, his name hasn’t popped up on scores of prospect lists built by the likes of The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie or ESPN’s duo of Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony.

Fortunately, NCAA rules grant him the flexibility to use this as an exploratory mission. Tilmon, who averaged 10.9 points and 5.1 rebounds, can sign with a certified agent and still return to school by May 29. To do so, Tilmon needs to request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

That feedback, as much as anything else, is a valuable commodity.

“Jeremiah has a chance to take advantage of a valuable opportunity and gather information through the process to help him moving forward,” Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said in a statement. “We fully support him using the resources available, and we’ll assist him in any way we can.”

Also worth monitoring: Does Tilmon receive an invite to the NBA draft combine. If so, his agent can comp the meals and transportation to Chicago, where Tilmon can go through drills and interview with teams.

Meanwhile, we’re also waiting to see what Jontay Porter ultimately decides to do after tearing the same ACL he first injured last October in a closed scrimmage. Until then, the working logic had been that the sophomore would still make the leap, with his draft stock holding steady in the top 20 for most of the season. Now, projections have Porter landing in the middle of the second round.

On the recruiting front, Martin and his staff haven’t singled out an heir apparent for Tilmon in this year’s signing class. However, they have monitored three prospects in the Class of 2020: Mehilville’s Davion Bradford, Trinity Catholic’s Ryan Kalkbrenner and John Hugley out of Brush High School in Cleveland.