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Missouri Hoops Player Review: Jeremiah Tilmon

Missouri’s big man struggled with fouls but showed his immense value when he stayed on the floor.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball is now officially over, and we’re still in the process of unpacking the season gone by with our series of postseason player reviews. To catch up on all the previous posts in the series, see the links below.

Today, we’re continuing this series with a look at the talented, enigmatic Jeremiah Tilmon.

Jeremiah Tilmon - Regular Stats

31 24.2 10.1 5.9 0.6 54.8 0.0 68.1
33 19.4 8.2 4.2 0.5 55.1 0.0 54.2

Jeremiah Tilmon - Advanced Stats*

%MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
%MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
58.1 101.5 10.6 24.2 1.05 (+.09) 1.00 (0.0) 54.5 57.2
48.1 93.7 24.9 1.04 (-0.06) 0.98 (+0.4) 55.1 55.4

Tilmon had stretches of dominance throughout the season, but still struggled with foul problems. What made him so effective and what is he still not getting right?

Sam Snelling, Site Manager: The talent Tilmon possesses is obvious. Great feet, soft hands, and the body to fill the middle of any type of offense. When he’s able to play under control and keep his frustrations with the contact levels of post play he’s able to dictate the offensive flow from the left block. Tilmon’s foul issues (and turnover issues also) more often than not stem from his inability to control his frustrations offensively. If he can just contain himself a little more and resist some of those offensive fouls, his turnover rate and foul rate both go down and his minutes will flatten out.

What’s interesting is Tilmon did improve on his fouling this year, despite it not really feeling that way. His fouls committed per 40 minutes went from 7.5 to 5.9, and while he fouled out in the same number of games this year (10), his minutes played in those games went from 13.3 to 17.1. Meaning, even when he was in foul trouble he was taking longer and staying on the floor more.

All I’m asking is that Tilmon take a similar step next year and drop his Fouls committed rate to under 5 per 40, and increase that foul out minutes played per game up over 20 and I think you have everything you need from Tilmon. That should get his overall minutes played into the mid to high 20’s and keep his production.

Matt Harris, Basketball Editor: To be clear, Tilmon’s foul woes can still hamstring MU, but the sophomore’s issue isn’t as bad as some might assume. (I see Sam and I each spent time doing math, too.) Even in games when officials tagged him with four or more fouls, he still posted 8.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in nearly 21 minutes of game action — or about three-quarters of his usual output.

And how did he fare under similar conditions as a freshman? Try 7.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 16 minutes. My point: The East St. Louis native improved at staying on the floor and playing extended periods when mired in foul trouble.

Of course, the idea is to avoid that predicament at all. There are still instances where you can forecast a series whistles in quick succession. For example, Tilmon might get called for a hook when operating on the block and an opponent exploits his lingering frustration by immediately punching the ball inside at the other end. We know Tilmon has worked extensively with a sports psychologist to control that response. Now we need to see it take a lasting hold.

It also shouldn’t obscure what Tilmon does exceptionally well.

After struggling in the face of hard double teams early in the season, he arguably became one of the five best post passers in the country. He excelled at hitting spot-up shooters, averaging 1.36 PPP on those touches and only slightly behind Kaleb Wesson and Grant Williams. And when Tilmon looks to score, he was stellar when going over his right shoulder (1.14 PPP) and utilizing his left hand, whether it’s a drop step on the left block and or a hook shot on the right side. He’s also exceptionally diving toward the rim after setting a high ball-screen. And along the way, he slashed his turnover rate in half.

Again, we can’t totally downplay Tilmon’s habit of getting saddled with foul trouble. But is also need to showing an ability to stay on the floor longer, play stronger in the face of pressure and be a stout presence on the interior. You can see the pieces coalescing. Maybe they finally meld in his junior year.

Josh Matejka, Editor: The foul troubles really mask what was a season of growth for Tilmon, as you can read in Matt’s answer above. Tilmon was exceptional when he stayed on the floor, and he combined his exceptional athleticism with improved instincts — with and without the ball. He’s also still a gifted defender and, despite the foul issues, isn’t afraid to get physical and use his size, which I, personally, would rather have than a timid big man.

With the fouls, it still appears to be a mental issue for Tilly. There are moments where he appears to understand how to avoid fouls and use his size effectively to gain position, especially on the defensive end of the floor. But he’s still prone to emotional fouls when the game gets heated or picks up pace. He had stretches where fouls weren’t an issue, so he could just need one more offseason of seasoning to really unlock the magic synthesis of aggression and smart play.

What would you like to see Tilmon work on during the offseason?

Sam Snelling: I’m here for Tilmon steady working on his jumper. He improved his FT percentage and the ball coming off his fingers looks much better so why not work on expanding the range a bit. I don’t think he needs to become Jontay Porter, but if he can draw another big a few more feet away from the basket on drives it can clear that much more space up for driving guards. And I’d really like to see him become a better rebounder outside of his space.

Matt Harris: I still think there’s potential for Tilmon to operate on the perimeter, whether that’s in pick-and-pops at the top of the arc or flaring on the wing in side ball-screens. The addition of Dru Smith at point guard could find natural chemistry with Tilmon and make for a potent duo — whether it’s out of a 1-4 flat look or a drag screen-and-roll on a secondary break.

This also harkens back to a conversation we had on Dive Cuts earlier this year and moving Tilmon around as a way to avoid foul trouble. Keeping him from hand-fighting and jostling for position is one benefit, but those actions can pull an opposing rim protector toward perimeter might help Mizzou’s wing avoid tough finishes when they get downhill.

Expanding Tilmon’s role this direction means his jumper has to be serviceable and he has to feel comfortable putting those shots up. We’ve seen footage and heard reports before about him putting in time to sculpt that facet of his game. The next step is to take it out of the practice gym and into live action.

Josh Matejka: There was talk of Tilmon working on a jumper last offseason, but it didn’t really pan out over the course of this year. I, for one, would welcome a Jeremiah Tilmon who could spot up off of screens and knock down long jumpers. It will need to become a tool in his kit if he wants to have an effective NBA career, so why not start working on it now? Managing fouls is the priority, but in terms of his game, the added dimension of a jumper would make him even more dangerous on the offensive half of the floor.

*Advanced Stats explainer:

%MIN — The number of minutes played in comparison to the total number of minutes available to be played. E.g. 30 minutes played in a 40 minute game would be 75%

ORtg — Individual offensive rating or points scored based upon a player accounting for the ending of 100 possessions (through shot attempts not offensive rebounded, assists, turnovers). This number comes from KenPom and it weighted to adjust for pace and opponent.

Adj GmSc — Adjusted GameScore, from Study Hall the accumulation of the players game score throughout the season

Poss% — Also referred to as Usage, it’s the number of possessions a player ends (via shot attempts not offensive rebounded, assists, turnovers) while on the court.

Lineup O/D +/- — This is the offensive and defensive points per possession when the player is on the court, the parenthesis reflects if lineups were better or worse with them on the floor (+ is if lineups were better with them on the floor, - is if lineups were worse)

eFG% — Effective Field Goal Percentage Adjusts shooting percentage for three point attempts. The formula is FGM + (.5 x 3PM) / FGA

TS% — True Shooting Percentage adjusts for both shooting percentage divided by total points scored. Traditionally the formula is (Points / 2 x (FGA + (0.44 x FTA)) x 100. We used KenPomeroy’s FT modifier of 0.475 instead of the NBA modifier of 0.44.