There has been off-court issues (including the dismissal of the team’s best player Kendrick Nunn), an inability to win games in the Big Ten, and a failure to land top recruits over Michigan State and other high quality programs in their conference.
With Tracy Abrams returning for his sixth season, Jalen Coleman-Lands likely to take a jump, and Malcolm Hill expected to be in the mix for the Big Ten Player of the Year, Groce has a squad that is set to be more dangerous than expected in one of the best conferences in the country. They still are unlikely to make the Big Dance due to the departure of Nunn, but Groce may have a bit of security now that he landed a five-star recruit.
Jeremiah Tilmon, who is from local La Porte, IN, committed to Illinois over numerous other high quality programs, including Michigan State, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas, amongst others, on Monday. Tilmon is a 6’10” center who is ranked 29th on ESPN’s top 100 for the class of 2017 and 24th nationally on Scout.com’s list.
The La Lumiere product is an excellent rebounder, can provide value as the last line of defense, and is capable of finishing at the rim due to his soft touch. Tilmon is not going to ever be the first option offensively, but his intangibles and ability to impact the game on the defensive end will be critical for Groce’s squad.
Tilmon is coming off a shoulder injury that required surgery, however, he should almost certainly be available when he is eligible in 2017.
With Mike Thorne Jr. and Maverick Morgan running out of eligibility following this season, Tilmon will give the Illini an immediate starter and a player that still has a lot of upside at the five-position.
This is huge for the Illini fan base, but as mentioned before this is even bigger for Groce. He may have bought himself some time regardless of the results in 2016-17 (although if they finish worse than last year things could change).
Even though the Illini were dealt a tough hand in 2015-16 due to the rash of injuries that hit their team, no one is giving Groce a pass for the team’s lack of success.
If Groce does survive this upcoming season, he will be expected to make immediate amends with Tilmon in the lineup.
Other recruiting updates
*2017 four-star point guard Blake Harris has committed to Washington. Harris plays his high school basketball at Word of God Academy and will be one of the players that will make up for the likely departure of Markelle Fultz (who is projected to be a lottery pick).
*USC has offered 2018 four-star Archbishop Stepinac small forward Aundre Hyatt. Iona, Saint Louis, St. John’s, Manhattan and La Salle are Hyatt’s other recorded offers.
*Sidney Wilson recently reclassified to the class of 2018 and decided to transfer to Brewster Academy. Now, the small forward has picked up offers from St. John’s, Seton Hall, UNLV, USC, Memphis and SMU. Adam Zagoria of SNY is reporting that Wilson might visit Texas in August.
*2017 point guard Brad Davison’s stock has been blowing up this summer. The three-star lead guard has committed to Greg Gard and Wisconsin over numerous high major teams.