Tonight is the Braggin’ Rights game, the annual meeting between interconference rivals Illinois and Missouri, in St. Louis, right before Christmas. Perhaps no one is more Mr. Braggin’ Rights than Jeremiah Tilmon, who originally committed to Illinois, but ended up playing for Mizzou from 2017-2021.
As yesterday was National Signing Day, for football, not basketball, the topic of people overrating recruiting, and spending way too much emotional energy on it, is very timely. Tilmon is a classic example of why. As is Mark Smith and we’ll cover both of them here.
Honestly, in some ways, these two guys were well ahead of their time, because now we have a transfer portal, and “flipping” is more commonplace than ever.
I will always give credit to Tilmon for this- the moment he chooses to re-open his recruitment, and de-commit from Illinois, was at the same time that all of America was realizing Donald Trump was about to be elected President.
While the act of committing, de-committing, waffling, flipping etc. can be seen as an act of attention seeking, the fact that he made this announcement on the fastest news day of the decade, actually, the fastest news hour of 2010s, is legendary. That is ballsy to say the least.
We’ll also remember of the viral video of John Groce and Josh Whitman hugging it out and celebrating, at a charity golf event, when they found out Tilmon committed to the Illini.
Honestly, none of us, myself included, should get that emotionally invested in where a kid goes to school, even if he is a highly rated prospect in a revenue sport. But we all did nonetheless.
It’s worth noting that you can also make a case for Mark Smith as Mr. Braggin’ Rights as he was another St. Louis area, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, kid who committed to Illinois before switching to Mizzou. He actually even played for the Illini for one season, before switching over to Missouri.
In fact, we even had a couple Braggin’ Rights games where Missouri had three previous Illini signees on their side in Jeremiah Tilmon, Mark Smith and Javon Pickett.
Smith, like Tilmon, sent Illini fans and general basketball fans into a frenzy with his recruitment.
Like Tilmon, he had blue blood offers. And like Tilmon, he was all everything in high school, and ended up having a solid to decent college career, but not a spectacular one.
Tilmon made all-SEC second team his senior year, when he averaged 12.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
His Mizzou career also saw him get into a bit of legal trouble off the court.
Although that was his best season, he still went undrafted.
As for Smith, whose parents played college basketball at SIU-Edwardsville, he was considered a Major League Baseball prospect, primarily, earlier on in his athletic career. He shifted his focus to basketball and before you knew it, the blue bloods came calling.
He listed Duke and Michigan State as his finalists, but also considered scholarship offers from Kentucky and Ohio State. He picked Illinois and played one very disappointing season there. He just couldn’t find his outside shot in Champaign, and moved on to Mizzou, where he averaged 9.7 points per game while shooting 31.5 percent from three-point range as a senior.
He then went to Kansas State as a graduate transfer, where was named Third Team All-Big 12 and to the league’s All-Newcomer Team.
While both players had their moments in college, neither ever came even remotely close to living up to their recruiting hype. However, both are currently collecting a paycheck playing professional ball overseas. During their college careers, it became clear that neither guy was a legitimate NBA prospect.
Tilmon was officially an Orlando Magic player for five days, before getting waived. He did play some for their D-League team in Lakeland, and as part of their Summer League team too.
He is now with the Hamilton Honey Badgers (Honey Badger Don’t Care!) of the CEBL (Canadian Elite Basketball League).
But the moral of this story remains- don’t overrate and overhype recruiting nonsense. It is not the fault of Smith and Tilmon that we all did, as they are just doing their thing. Recruiting stuff misses more than it hits.
Hopefully, you learned something or two from reading this. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and Happy Hannukah.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.