In the last two SEC games, Jeremiah Tilmon has been a dominant force for the Missouri Tigers like no other time in his college career.
Tilmon currently leads the SEC in Field Goal Percentage at 71% during conference play, and at times has looked unstoppable. So what has changed for the Mizzou big man? Is it health, or maybe just maturation? Perhaps it’s a combination of the two.
Coming into the season a new and improved Tilmon was advertised to Tiger fans. Before the opener against Oral Roberts, Mark Smith and Counzo Martin both praised Tilmon for how he was playing in practice during the offseason. “Tilly is dominating in practice,” Smith said. “When he’s getting the ball in the paint, I feel like he’s scoring every time.” Martin also echoed the sharpshooter’s thoughts. “I can see the growth,” Tilmon’s head coach said, “When competition presents itself it brings out something different in him.”
However, Tiger fans have heard many tales of the talent of the big man from East St. Louis, so what makes this year different?
In the same preseason presser in which Martin and Smith heralded Tilmon, Jeremiah himself said that a greater sense of understanding in his personal life had led to this improvement. This new outlook, according to Tilmon, was leading to greater composure on the hardwood, “I’m not rushing anything [anymore], it’s a different person [out there].”
However, all Tiger fans knew that even if Tilmon really was new and improved, the first issue would always be health.
After playing just roughly 50% of the Tigers games last year due to a foot injury, a big concern heading into this season was is Tilmon fully healthy. Without hesitation, Jeremiah put any of those doubts to rest in the preseason when he informed the media, “I feel 100% healthy.”
The only thing that remained to be seen for Tigers fans was if everything they had been hearing was true. As soon as Tilmon took the court, the Tiger faithful got their answer— it was a resounding yes.
Jeremiah started off the season by adding 8 points and 12 rebounds against Oral Roberts and he hasn’t looked back. The big man currently is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and shooting percentage from the floor, while reducing his fouling and turning the ball over at a career-low rate.
His hallmark performance of the year came against Arkansas on the road just two weeks ago. In the game, he scored a career-high 25 and added 11 rebounds. Following the game, Cuonzo Martin said at the time, “Off the top of my head I would say it’s his best game.” Tilmon also seemed to confirm his preseason statement about no longer rushing when he said, “I felt like the game was just coming to me.”
When looking beyond the box score and the eye test, the improvement from Jeremiah becomes even more impressive.
This season Tilmon’s player efficiency rating (PER) is at a career-best 21.4 after previously never breaking the 20.0 barrier. He has also increased his offensive rating (ORtg) significantly by more than 11 points per 100 possessions from 105.3 to 116.4.
In the process of increasing both of those stats, Tilmon has managed to decrease his usage rate along the way allowing for more of his teammates to contribute as he does more with less. In his career, Tilmon averages a 23.7% usage rate, but this year, it has dipped to 20.7%.
In translation, not only has Tilmon been stuffing the stat sheet more, but he’s been incredibly efficient while doing it.
If this Tigers team wants to continue their early-season success, then this version of Tilmon better stick around. The scary thing for opponents is Tilmon is still improving with each game. Who knows how dangerous the end of season product might be.