University of Missouri

Missouri center Jeremiah Tilmon will explore NBA Draft but retain eligibility

Missouri center Jeremiah Tilmon will enter the NBA Draft while retaining his NCAA eligibility, he announced Monday.

Tilmon is coming off an improved sophomore season in which he saw his scoring, rebounding, steals and assists improve in the absence of Jontay Porter, but was still hampered because of fouls. Porter has yet to announce his draft intentions, but must do so by the end of the week.

“It’s always been a dream of mine since I started playing basketball to make it to the NBA,” Tilmon said in a release. “I want to get everything I can out of this process. I’m excited to learn from it and get the feedback I need.”

Tilmon, an East St. Louis, Illinois native, had 111 fouls as a sophomore, 10 fewer than he did as a freshman. After Missouri’s loss to Auburn in the SEC Tournament, Tilmon said he planned to return for his junior season and wanted to win more at MU before leaving.

He has until May 29 to withdraw from the draft.

“Jeremiah has a chance to take advantage of a valuable opportunity and gather information through the process to help him moving forward,” Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We fully support him using the resources available and we’ll assist him in any way we can.”

As more of a traditional center, Tilmon is more of a throwback to the modern NBA game and lacks the shooting range of most current professional centers. But his footwork is among the best in the Southeastern Conference and the edge he plays with could entice teams to take a chance.

He averaged 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore and his free throw shooting improved to 68% from 52% as a freshman.

Tilmon could get an invite to the NBA Combine, which runs from May 14-19 in Chicago and is his best chance at showing teams what he can do against top talent. If he doesn’t get invited, he’ll have to impress teams through private workouts.

Should he return to Mizzou, Tilmon will be the centerpiece of what is expected to be Martin’s best team in 2019-20. He is the most experienced starting player and one of MU’s lone scoring threats in the post. Missouri also returns Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith, but neither have Tilmon’s scoring prowess.

Missouri has looked into adding a few frontcourt players during the spring recruiting period but nothing has materialized. The Tigers recently hosted Duquesne transfer Eric Williams Jr., a 6-foot-6 scoring wing, on an official visit last week. If Tilmon remains in the draft, then MU must work quickly to find a recruit who could replace his production.

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.