After a foot injury kept Missouri center Jeremiah Tilmon sidelined for nearly half of his junior season, the East St. Louis native returned to the floor during the Tigers’ past three games.


Over that span, Tilmon has displayed signs of his dominant potential and caused some Missouri fans to ponder if Saturday’s game against Alabama will also be their last chance to see the 6-foot-10 big man in a Missouri uniform.


“I’ll test the waters, but I’m not putting two feet in,” Tilmon said Friday of exploring his stock for this summer’s NBA Draft. “I’m not doing that. I’m going to continue to maintain my eligibility.”


Talented underclassmen exploring the option to receive an evaluation for how they compare to other pro prospects has become popular in recent years. Last year, 40 of the 60 selections in the draft were underclassmen who forwent college eligibility.


There were 175 players who initially announced their intention to test their NBA Draft value in 2019. Among them were 44 underclassmen — including Jontay Porter — who forfeited college eligibility and weren’t drafted.


Tilmon attempted to enter his name into the draft fray last spring, but because of a paperwork issue, he never entered the process. He returned to Columbia for his junior season.


“I’m going to at least try, to go see just for the experience,” Tilmon said Friday. “But I’m not going to put two feet in and just say, ‘Forget school.’ I’m not going to do that.”


Tilmon doesn’t currently appear in any major online NBA mock drafts, though his fortunes could change through workouts or the NBA Draft Combine in late May.


This season, Tilmon’s foul and turnover rates have gone down and he’s shooting a career-high 58.8% from the field.


However, Tilmon’s points per game average has gone down from 10.1 to 8.2, and his rebounding average has dropped from 5.9 to 4.1.


His assists and blocks per game have both slightly increased.


While Tilmon says he has yet to make an official decision about his future, he said Friday he can envision himself back in Columbia next year for his senior season.


“I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove,” Tilmon said. “I didn’t play my best season this year and I’ve missed so many games just off my foot being hurt. I’ve got a lot to prove. ... You lose a lot by not being out there.”


eblum@columbiatribune.com