EAST ST. LOUIS — Make room for Jeremiah Tilmon.
Tilmon is a 6-foot-9, 230-pound freshman center/power forward at East St. Louis, and second-year Flyers coach Tony Young said it won't take long for Tilmon to make a name for himself --if he hasn't already done that.
"He's kind of got a good buzz about him going around the state. He's going to be a special kid," said Young, noting that Tilmon has received scholarship offers from schools in the Big Ten, Southeastern and Big 12 conferences. "He's got so many people looking at him. Jeremiah is going to be fun to watch. He's a different kind of talent that the city hasn't seen in a while."
What separates Tilmon from other players is his height, advanced skills and mental makeup. Young said Tilmon, who turned 15 on Monday, has no glaring weaknesses.
"He's a true power forward," Young said. "He can pass, he can handle it a little bit. He's not a Darius Miles at all. But he does play on the blocks. He has a good left and right hand. He does it all.
"He's young. At the end of the day, he's still a kid. (But) he's legitimately a big kid. For his age and his size, he's very well coordinated and he also has a very good skill level."
In a recent practice, East St. Louis players huddled to vocalize their expectations for the team. Tilmon's response struck Young.
"He said, 'I want to do my best so I can get all my seniors scholarships to school next year,'" Young said. "He realizes a lot people are going to come to the gym to see him, so he was just like, 'Man, I've got to play my best so I can get all my older kids scholarships next year.'"
Young said Tilmon can handle the pressure.
"He embraces it. He wants that kind of stuff," Young said. "He's a humble kid --a really, really good kid. He doesn't look at it like, 'I've got to step in and be the man.'"
But on many nights, Tilmon will assume that role.
"He can square up and hit a jump shot," Young said. "(But) the majority of the time right now, I'm trying to keep him with his back to the basket. I would rather let him learn that first and work his way out. I like my post players to be post players. Then you add the rest of it to your game after that."
The Flyers, who open the season against Decatur MacArthur at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Decatur Turkey Tournament, have plenty more talent despite the graduation losses of Deshawn Munson, Johnny McCray and Daniel Williams.
Justin Smith, a 5-7 senior, returns to handle point-guard duties, and 6-3 senior Darrion Beane is back at shooting guard. Terry Beckner, a 6-5, 260-pound junior, will join Tilmon to form an intimidating frontline, and 6-4 sophomore Karon Randolph will play forward after leading the freshman team to an undefeated record last year.
Tyrone Riley, a 6-5 junior, Dominic Nelson, a 6-1 senior, and a handful of other players will be at Young's disposal.
"I'm a guy who likes to play nine or 10 guys," said Young, adding that competition for spots has been spirited. "They understand playing time is earned, not given. I don't care where you've been, who you know or how you've done in the past. You've got to beat somebody out. If you beat somebody out, you're more than welcome to have it all. If you can't beat somebody out, that's just your problem."
Smith averaged 3.6 points last season but will play a more prominent role this year. Beane averaged 7.9 points.
"Justin's a smart kid with a good jump shot," Young said. "He'll definitely knock down open shots, and he plays hard.
"Beane played really well. He was injured at the beginning of the year, so when he finally came back and was healthy, he played good minutes toward the end of the season."
Like last season, Beckner will need some time to round into form after a long football season. He averaged 3.5 points last year.
"Terry was still kind of young," Young said. "Terry's a year older and kind of understanding it a little better. He's a little more poised. He's a huge body."
Young said Randolph is experienced beyond his years.
"He played freshman, JV and dressed varsity as well," Young said. "So he's got some good experience, being around. Karon's kind of a defensive specialist. He's tough, he's got a great body and he's worked hard."
Other players on the East Side roster are: 6-2 senior Jesse Douglas, 6-1 senior Walter Holder, 5-10 junior Tyshaun Stainback, 6-3 junior Markeese Fair, 5-11 junior Antony Johnson, 6-3 sophomore Antonio Johnson and 6-0 sophomore Kenny Robeson and Patrick Baxter.
"I've got a good group of kids," Young said. "It's good to have one year in with some of these guys. I actually have a young team. I don't have as many seniors. It's good because it gives you an opportunity to teach and grow with some of these kids."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.