Illinois confirmed Tuesday that East St. Louis (Ill.) High senior center Jeremiah Tilmon and one other player have been granted a release from the national letters of intent the recruits signed in November.
Tilmon, a Rivals five-star prospect, and Belleville (Ill.) East three-star shooting guard Javon Pickett requested a waiver after signing last fall with former Fighting Illini coach John Groce, who was fired after the season and replaced by former Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood.
The release clears the way for Tilmon — a 6-foot-10 post, who averaged 15.3 points with 11.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks last season, according to the Flyers’ MaxPreps page — to communicate with other programs, including Missouri.
He can’t sign another national of intent, but he would be free to ink a financial-aid agreement with any school he desires.
Under NCAA anti-tampering rules, once a prospect signs a national letter of intent, all other schools and coaches are prohibited from direct communication.
However, student-athletes who sign during the early-signing period are allowed to request a waiver of release in the event of a coaching change and essentially reopen the recruiting process.
Players who are granted such a request and have not enrolled at the school yet do not have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer guidelines and are not subject to restrictions on where they can subsequently enroll.
Tilmon, who is from new Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin’s hometown, is the No. 25 prospect in the country, according to Rivals.
Scout, which also gives Tilmon a five-star rating, lists him as the No. 18 player overall and the No. 7 center.
Tilmon is ranked as a four-star prospect by ESPN, which pegs him at No. 41 overall and No. 6 at center, and 247 Sports, which list him No. 36 overall and No. 9 at power forward.
Initially, Tilmon appeared poised to remain with Illinois, but last Wednesday he announced his intention to request a release in a social-media post.
Tilmon announced last summer that Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina and Texas were his final six schools.
He also is credited with offers from Indiana, Iowa, Kansas State, North Carolina State, Saint Louis and UCLA, according to various recruiting websites.
The Tigers have eight returning players from last season after guards K.J. Walton and Frankie Hughes decided to transfer last week.
Mizzou signed Richland (Texas) Hills point guard C.J. Roberts in November, a commitment he announced last week he was sticking with, and also have verbal commitments from former Washington signees Michael Porter Jr. and Blake Harris.
That leaves Martin, who is barred from in-person contact with prospects until the NCAA dead period ends April 13, with two open scholarships — enough to accommodate both Tilmon and Tampa (Fla.) Catholic forward Kevin Knox II, who visited Columbia last weekend along with Porter and Harris.
Porter and Harris received a release from the Huskies last month after Lorenzo Romar was fired.
The Tigers only return one post player, sophomore Reed Nikko, who averaged 2.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 28 games last season, so adding Tilmon’s size, rebounding and rim protection would be a welcome roster addition.