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Jeremiah Tilmon is figuring out the best version of himself

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Any questions about Tilmon coming into the season have been loudly answered.

NCAA Basketball: Emporia State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

When Jeremiah Tilmon left East St. Louis to go play basketball at LaLumiere it was largely viewed as a smart move. There were some worried about the academics side of things, and he was solidly becoming a fixture amongst the elite player in the country. Routinely ranked in the top 20 players for a fairly deep 2017 class.

His production and experience at LaLumiere was a good one, and then for his senior season he transferred back. His drop from the truly elite had already started as he took a bit of a back seat to some very talented guards in AAU ball, and his progress had seemingly stalled during his high school season.

But everyone always knew the gifts Tilmon possessed. He committed to Illinois, people got fired all around and Cuonzo Martin showed up. Now Tilmon is a Missouri Tiger. Let’s take a look at how things are going...

jeremiah tilmon kenpom profile

These are good stats. Things are going well.

Breaking down to build back up

NCAA Basketball: Wagner at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

I chose this picture because Tilmon is fouling someone. After 17 fouls in his first four games and just 60 minutes of play, that’s a robust 11.3 fouls per 40 minutes.

So Cuonzo Martin and staff needed to find a way to keep Tilmon on the court. They took some drastic steps. They asked Tilmon to basically just stay stationary on defense, and keep his hands up high.

Tilmon did what they asked, and while he still fouled occasionally, he did so at a much lower clip. 16 fouls in 125 minutes over the next six games and suddenly Tilmon’s FC/40 is at just 7.0 instead of creeping towards 12.

The progress of keeping Tilmon on the court came at a cost. His production dropped.

  • First 4 games per 40min: 24.0 points, 10.67 rebounds, 2.67 blocks
  • Next 3 games per 40 min: 17.7 points, 8.14 rebounds, 0.74 blocks
  • Next 3 games per 40 min: 21.4 points, 13.52 rebounds, 2.25 blocks

For me what stands out, his points are fairly consistent, but the rebounds and blocks are where Tilmon was more aggressive early and late.

What the staff did was the obvious choice. Tilmons raw energy early cost him dearly in his minutes on the floor. So much so he even took himself out of his first game against Iowa State because he was too energy. Then the staff made him focus on position by keeping his feet and arms stationary avoiding most fouls. They made Tilmon a bit of a robot, breaking down his play to the most basic by simply forcing him into position and staying there.

By breaking him down to the simplest form of basketball, they enabled Tilmon to calm his mind and build his energy off of positioning. That’s when things started to click.

Staying on the court helps good players be productive

The production Tilmon is capable of is truly through the roof. Cuonzo Martin knows it, NBA GM’s know it, and Jeremiah Tilmon is starting to figure it out.

What’s impressive about this is how quickly Tilmon has put it together. He’s obviously still growing but right now Tilmon looks like he could be a vote getter on an All SEC team. The league is stacked this year and it’ll be hard to get onto an SEC 1st or 2nd team with the likes of Tyler Davis, Yante Maten, P.J. Washington, and other high level bigs throughout the league. But for all of them, Jeremiah Tilmon is a problem.

Soft hands, quick feet, explosive around the rim, Tilmon has everything you want in a 6’11 frame.

His growth does one other very big, big thing. It opens doors. Cuonzo Martin has taken raw talent and ability and harnessed it into an immediate return.

Are you paying attention Courtney Ramey, E.J. Liddell, Mario McKinney and others?

Open the door to more

With his reputation, Cuonzo Martin doesn’t have problems getting in doors for recruiting. But there have been questions about whether he can take and mold talent. At Tennessee he got talented guys and they were good players, at Cal the same. But now he can point to a player, a St. Louis area player at that, who he’s taken and molded into a dominant player at his position.

NCAA Basketball: Emporia State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Tilmon trusted Cuonzo, and in turn Martin is taking Tilmon to another level and this is something players in and around St. Louis are going to pay attention to.

And not just St. Louis, but what Martin and his staff have accomplished in such a short time with Tilmon is going to ring out across a lot of living rooms in the future. It’s one thing to recruit an already elite player like DeAndre Ayton or Mo Bamba and letting them do their thing. It’s another to take the next level guy and help him take another step towards being elite.

If Tilmon is patient he can be the best big man in the SEC next season. He can already be close THIS season. But you put another year with Chris Hollender on the block, another year with Nicodemus Christopher in the weight room, and another year under the guidance of Cuonzo Martin and that recipe is a dangerous one for the rest of the SEC.

St. Louis recruits take notice, Cuonzo Martin is helping Jeremiah Timon become the best version of himself.