Illinois head coach John Groce has dealt with plenty of adversity since taking over as the head coach of the Fighting Illini in 2012.
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.
Video Surfaces Showing Agent Christian Dawkins Promoting Connections to Top Coaches
Another layer has unraveled in the college basketball corruption trial on Wednesday when a video recording of a conversation about paying college coaches and athletes was played on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Paula Lavigne.
In the video dated June 6th 2017, aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins brags about his connections to top NCAA basketball coaches, including Arizona head coach Seam Miller.
When referring to incoming (at the time) Arizona player Deandre Ayton (who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns) Dawkins says Miller told him, “I’m taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I’ll turn everything over to you.”
Dawkins is currently on trial for allegedly bribing college coaches.
Marty Blazer, a former financial advisor who was being questioned by prosecutors and who was present for the conversation, said the reference was about Miller “taking care” of payments for Ayton.
“Sean Miller has to know everything that’s going on. I can call Sean and have a conversation … like this is what is needing to be done,” Dawkins said on the video. He said that Miller is, “talking on the phone about stuff he shouldn’t be talking on the phone about.”
Unites States District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled back on Friday that defense attorneys could not subpoena Miller and LSU’s Will Wade to testify during the federal bribery trial.
Rick Barnes Says He Would Have Left Tennessee if UCLA Paid Buyout
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes could have been the next head coach for UCLA, instead of Mick Cronin, if only the Bruins were willing to open up their wallets.
Barnes says that if UCLA would have promised to pay Barnes’ $5 million buyout, he would have left Tennessee to take the job at UCLA.
“I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes said (h/t ESPN). “I’ve said that to people before. I really felt at that time that’s what would happen.”
Barnes was honest and open with his decision process during the news conference, saying that he struggled with making a final decision due to financial matters.
Barnes has since agreed to a new deal with Tennessee that will pay him $4 million per year before increasing to a $6 million annual sum by the end of the contract and provide more cash for his assistants.
“I’m supposed to be at Tennessee,” Barnes said. “And it’s really above and beyond the basketball program. I’m in love with this community. I’m in love with this state. I just think we got a lot of great things going on in this town.”
“A lot of praying went into it, I can tell you that,” Barnes said. “There was a lot going on. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. Bottom line is we couldn’t work it out with the buyout.”
Barnes also informed UCLA that he would not depart Knoxville without talking to athletic director Phillip Fulmer and others in the community.
I told them point blank, ‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with my team,'” Barnes said. “‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with people here that have been really good to me.’ … I said, ‘You just can’t say send a plane tomorrow and we’re leaving. I’m going to make sure this is done the right way.'”
“There was one time in my mind I truly felt that’s what would happen,” Barnes said about potentially taking the UCLA offer. “It got to that point where I felt like my prayers had been answered.”
The Madness is Underway
As we inch closer to selection Sunday, many conference tournaments are underway finding teams who will automatically make the NCAA Men’s basketball. Here are the teams that currently in the tournament:
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big South: Gardner–Webb
Horizon: Northern Kentucky
Missouri Valley: Bradley
MEC: Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit League: North Dakota State
Summit League: Saint Marry’s
Out of the 32 conferences with automatic bids in the tournament, 12 of them have been clinched. All the until selection Sunday the remaining 20 conferences will have their tickets punched. Who will that be? Stay tuned!
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