Fighting Illini basketball just landed their biggest prospect of the John Groce era. Five-star big man Jeremiah Tilmon (IL) has given a verbal commitment to the coaching staff, putting to rest Illinois' most important recruiting battle in the process. Tilmon is the No. 23 overall player in 247Sports' class-of-2017 composite rankings; he had other scholarship offers from North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State, Indiana, Texas, and UCLA.
Tilmon, a native of Illinois, recently moved to Indiana in order to play at La Lumiere high school. The 6'11, 220-pound big man helped lead the Lakers to the 2016 DICK'S Sporting Goods National title game as a junior. Unfortunately, Tilmon suffered a dislocated shoulder during the championship bout, and he eventually had surgery on May 28. Tilmon's recovery from the procedure caused him to miss USA Basketball U-18 training camp in addition to the AAU season.
There hadn't been a lot of news out of Tilmon's camp since his prep season concluded, but he did make it down to Champaign for a not-so-secret unofficial visit on June 25. That trip evidently had a huge impact.
Scouting Report (via Scout)
Strengths: Rebounding, Size, Potential
Areas for Improvement: Competitiveness, Go-To-Move, Strength
Tilmon's commitment is incredible for Illinois. The Fighting Illini have a long, sorry history of major recruiting misses, and this is a massive step in an exciting new direction. Alongside four-star combo guard Da'Monte Williams and three-star wing Javon Pickett, this addition will vault Illinois' recruiting class up to No. 2 in the nation, behind only UCLA.
There's still plenty more work to be done, too. With three more open scholarships available for the class-of-2017, the coaching staff is in hot pursuit of several other talented prospects. The most important of which is four-star wing Jordan Goodwin. Although the Belleville, IL native has kept things relatively quiet since winning the Class-3A State title, he's quickly becoming one of the most sought-after players on the AAU circuit. The Illini were the first school to offer Goodwin a scholarship, and they've put themselves in a prime position to land his services.
The Illini are also looking to land another true point guard to compliment Williams in the future backcourt. Four-star Florida native Trent Frazier recently labeled Illinois his leader, and it may only be a matter of time until he gives his own pledge to the Orange and Blue. The Illini are also involved with five-star guard Paul Scruggs, who may be further enticed to join the team now that Tilmon is in the fold.
It isn't so farfetched to say that the prospects of a potentially program-changing recruiting class saved John Groce's job this Spring. It seemed like a gamble by Josh Whitman at the time, but retaining the fourth-year head coach appears to be paying off. Although the on-court results have yet to materialize, Groce appears well on his way to delivering what fans have hoped for.
We'll have more up on Tilmon's impact very shortly. For now, it's time to celebrate.