Illini Land The Grand Prize In 2017

By Roy & Harv Schmidt

July 11, 2016

1:00 P.M. CST

The speculation that Jeremiah Tilmon was a lock for the University of Illinois began a little over a year ago.  And despite the circus that fans and media around the Illini men's basketball program always seem to make out of a recruitment involving one of their top targets (more on that momentarily), it can now officially be laid to rest.  That is because the 6'10 center from LaLumiere School in LaPorte, IN announced his commitment today to the Illini and head coach John Groce.

Tilmon had dropped a few hints over the past couple of weeks that a decision could be coming soon and there were plenty of signs given to lead everyone to believe that Illinois would be the pick.  He took an unofficial visit to the Illini campus with his parents during the final weekend in June.  Shortly after that, he released a list of his final 5 schools which consisted of Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State and Texas.  Tilmon then put said on his Facebook page this past week that a "big announcement" would be coming on Monday.

The bottom line is that throughout his entire recruiting process it was abundantly clear that the Illini were the program that Tilmon was considering first and foremost.  While he did have in-home visits with both North Carolina and Kansas, Illinois was the only school among his finalists that Tilmon visited on multiple occasions.

Above all else, Tilmon felt a level of comfort with and a closeness to the Illini coaching staff that was unparalleled in comparison with any of his other recruiting suitors.  While this is certainly true with respect to Groce, it is even more so with assistant coach Jamall Walker, Tilmon's lead recruiter.  Walker has been recruiting Tilmon since the eighth grade.

As we previously mentioned, because Tilmon's strong relationship with the Illini coaching staff has been well-known for quite some time, the usual contingent of Illini Nation members as well as media and internet mopes who report on Illini recruiting engaged in endless speculation concerning Tilmon's recruiting timeline, with the worst coming over the course of the past seven months.  During that time we heard several instances in which those folks insisted that a commitment was just around the corner, with the most popular consensus being that Tilmon would pull the trigger in early April just before the start of the Spring Evaluation Period.  That banter had absolutely no substance to it whatsoever and of course a pledge did not come during that time frame.

On the other hand, Illinois Prep Bulls-eye accurately predicted that Tilmon would make his decision during the July Evaluation Period in the following Tweet posted back on June 28: http://twitter.com/prepbullseye/status/747908004935131136.  

Tilmon has been out of action since the beginning of April due to a dislocated shoulder that he suffered in the title of the High School Nationals versus Oak Hill Academy.  However, in our mind he established himself as one of the premier front court players in the 2017 class nationally well before then with outstanding performances at the EYBL Finals/NIKE Peach Jam a year ago and at the Futures Camp sponsored by NY2LA Sports last October.  Tilmon was hands down the best player at the Futures Camp from start to finish.

Above all else, Tilmon is a constant force on the glass and the defensive interior in addition to being able to run the floor and consistently finish with authority.  But what has catapulted him to being one of the elite players in the nation is the ever-increasing offensive weapons that are now in his arsenal.  They include outstanding passing ability from the high post and being able to face up and knock down mid-range jumpers.

Tilmon becomes the third commitment in the 2017 class for Groce and the Illini, joining 6'5 wing forward Javon Pickett from Belleville East High School in Belleville, IL and 6'4 point guard Da'Monte Williams from Manual High School in Peoria, IL.  While the class is not yet complete, it definitely has the makings of possibly being the best in the Big Ten, with Tilmon being the centerpiece and a signature recruit.  

When Josh Whitman extended a vote of confidence to Groce after taking over as the new AD at Illinois, he did so largely due to the feeling that he felt Groce and his staff were on the verge of landing a monster 2017 recruiting class.  As it stands now, the results speak for themselves and there is no question that Groce and company can breathe much easier.  

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