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Top Illini recruit Jeremiah Tilmon asks for release

Illinois+men%27s+head+basketball+coach+Brad+Underwood+is+now+faced+with+Jeremiah+Tilmon+requesting+a+release+from+his+National+Letter+of+Intent.
Illinois men's head basketball coach Brad Underwood is now faced with Jeremiah Tilmon requesting a release from his National Letter of Intent.

Illinois men's head basketball coach Brad Underwood is now faced with Jeremiah Tilmon requesting a release from his National Letter of Intent.

TNS

TNS

Illinois men's head basketball coach Brad Underwood is now faced with Jeremiah Tilmon requesting a release from his National Letter of Intent.

Matt Gertsmeier, Columnist

Jeremiah Tilmon has requested a release from his National Letter of Intent with Illinois.

The 6-foot-10 center from East Saint Louis, Ill., made the announcement via Instagram Wednesday afternoon. Tilmon had verbally committed to play for former head coach John Groce on July 11, 2016, and signed his National Letter of Intent in November.

The top-25 recruit claimed the release was due to recent coaching changes at Illinois in his Instagram post.

“My family and I feel it’s only fair that we hear all opportunities and not be stuck in one situation,” Tilmon said via Instagram. “We will wait patiently on the release from the NLI.”

Tilmon caused a stir in November when he waited to sign with Illinois until the last possible day in the early signing period. The delay caused concern for many Illini fans.

This past week, Tilmon had retweeted his own tweet from last summer when he verbally committed to Illinois. Many fans and analysts took this social media move as an indication that Tilmon was still on board with Illinois basketball and new head coach Brad Underwood.

According to 247sports.com, Tilmon ranks as the top player in Illinois and No. 29 in the nation. He has received offers from Missouri, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, Texas and UCLA. His crystal ball has Missouri as the front-runner on 247sports.com.

Tilmon’s request for his release changes a lot for the Illini.

Illinois’ recruiting class of 2017 now shrinks down to three signees consisting only of guards. Before Tilmon’s shocking news, the Illini were ranked as the No. 11 class in the nation,    according to 247sports.com and ESPN.

With the graduation of Maverick Morgan and Mike Thorne Jr., there was a strong chance Tilmon would get major minutes as a freshman and be heavily relied upon as Illinois’ go-to big man. After watching his highlights, I’ve noticed that Tilmon has great footwork and soft touch around the rim. He can step outside for a midrange jumper and has great length to block shots on the defensive end. This would be huge for Illinois.

If Tilmon chooses to commit to another school when all is said and done, this will really put Illinois in a bind. Without Tilmon, the Illini will have to look upon Michael Finke as their center. While Finke has demonstrated a pretty good feel for the position, he seems more suited for the stretch-four spot on the court, given his three-point capabilities.

It’s peculiar that Tilmon waited a couple of weeks after Groce’s firing to request his release, especially with his recent retweet. It seems a bit odd that he didn’t make an announcement earlier. A few days ago, fans were feeling reaffirmed on his commitment. This is a very quick change of pace in the situation.

Regardless, I think it’s important for people to respect Tilmon’s decision. He’s a senior in high school and has one of the most important decisions of his career on the line. For about eight months, he was under the impression he would be playing for Groce, and now he needs to decide if he was committing to play for a school or a coach.

This will be a great test for Underwood. I am curious to see how he approaches this decision and if he can persuade Tilmon to recommit to Illinois. I think Underwood is a great coach and would absolutely utilize Tilmon in his system if he decided to recommit.

Tilmon will continue to be sought out by some highly rated programs and some other schools that have recently changed their landscape. Missouri could be a school on the rise with Cuonzo Martin as the new head coach and a recent commitment from the No. 1 prospect in the nation, Michael Porter Jr.

I certainly wouldn’t count Illinois out yet. Underwood retaining Jamall Walker as an assistant will definitely help keep the Illini in the mix for Tilmon.

“Illinois will always remain an option because of my ongoing relationship with Coach (Jamall) Walker but this is my future and I need to be certain before I come to campus in June,” Tilmon said in his Instagram post.

The regular signing day for basketball will begin April 12 and end May 17. Only time will tell where Tilmon ends up.

gertsme2@dailyillini.com

@MattGertsmeier

Matt is a Junior in Business

1 Comment

  • Hon. Don Gerard

    To be fair, Champaign Central, without a player over 6’5″, shut down Tilmon and beat ESL by double-digits. As a seven-footer he only averaged 15 points and eleven rebounds causing his rating to drop dramatically. Given how Cliff Alexander wound up on the bench at Kansas and pretty much fizzled out, the move now opens the door for any available upperclassmen big men eligible to transfer and get major minutes. Just my two cents