Illinois coach John Groce scored perhaps his biggest victory on the recruiting trail since joining the program in 2012. On Monday, Groce landed an elite talent who is also a homegrown prospect.
Five-star power forward Jeremiah Tilmon committed to the Illini Monday afternoon. The East St. Louis, Ill., native announced his decision on Twitter.
— Jeremiah Tilmon (@jeremiahtilmon_) July 11, 2016
Tilmon is rated as the No. 23 prospect nationally in the Class of 2017 and the No. 8 power forward in the country. He chose the Illini over premier programs such as Indiana, Michigan State, Kansas, North Carolina, Texas and UCLA.
It might have been a bit of a leap of faith to turn down so many established programs and join the Illini, who have made only two NCAA tournament appearances since 2010. But Tilmon told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that staying home close to home had a large impact on his decision.
“I feel that I trust them and that’s where my heart is telling me to be,” Tilmon told Borzello. “I feel that they believe in me and will do everything in their power to get me where I want to be. I have a great relationship with the coaches and Illinois is my home. East St. Louis is my hometown, I can’t forget where I came from.”
This is an enormous victory for Groce, who could have entered the 2016-17 season on the hot seat after missing the NCAA tournament the past three seasons. Tilmon’s commitment is Groce’s first verbal from a 5-star prospect since taking the helm in Champaign, Ill. The reaction from Groce and Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman says it all.
— Annice McEwan (@WCIA3Annice) July 11, 2016
Illinois now has the No. 2 recruiting class in the country as Tilmon joins 4-star point guard DaMonte Williams and 3-star shooting guard Javon Pickett. Groce now might have his eyes set on landing Tilmon’s AAU teammate, 4-star shooting guard Jordan Goodwin. Tilmon told Scout.com’s Evan Daniels that he’s “going to get” Goodwin to join him in Champaign.
The value of Tilmon’s commitment is difficult to put into words. The phrase “program-changing” might be the optimal way to define Illinois’ newest addition.
All recruiting information comes from 247Sports composite rankings.
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