The Utah Utes found out they would be without standout sophomore forward Donnie Tillman next year, as he announced he would be transferring from Utah to be closer to his family. Tillman, a very caring young man, wanted to put his mother’s health before himself. He even contemplated ending his collegiate basketball career to make sure he could be there for his mother. His mother’s strength and motivation throughout this difficult time is what allowed him to not “give up on his dreams of playing basketball,” Tillman said.
The 6’7″, 225 pound forward averaged 10.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 43.9 % from the field. Tillman had his best game of his collegiate career in a win against Arizona State. He scored 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, and made 6 three pointers. This production led him to enter the NBA Draft this year as an early entry candidate. Tillman met with the Utah Jazz in a pre-draft workout. The president of player personnel at that Utah Jazz described Tillman as “a player with a nice, strong body and the ability to get to the rim with ease.” Some criticism about Tillman dealt with his need to be a better finisher around the basket:
“He needs to work on that to go further in the profession.”
This led to Tillman withdrawing from the NBA Draft. He is now in the transfer portal.
During this process, many programs contacted Tillman. However, he has only taken two official visits. His first was to Rutgers. It is clear that Rutgers has made a great impression on him. Especially rising junior guard Geo Baker. “Baker, that’s my guy,” Tillman said. He was impressed by the coaches’ and players’ drive and passion to make Rutgers a better program.
His Illinois visit followed. “They (Illinois) have been in need for a versatile wing. And they showed nothing but enthusiasm throughout my visit,” Tillman said. When I asked Tillman about what he did during his visit, he jokingly said, “Workout, workout, and workout some more.” Thankfully, working out wasn’t the only thing Tillman got to do in Champaign, IL. “Looking around campus was fun. I got to eat at some really nice places. The staff were great, too. They showed great energy throughout the trip. It was really cool. ” Tillman said. He also got to meet some of the Illinois players. In fact, he was hosted by rising sophomores Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. “Ayo and Giorgi were great. They are both very confident and competitive, just like the entire team,” Tillman said.
Tillman’s transfer status will have him sit one year and play two. Coming off a fantastic year, I asked Tillman how does he prepare his body and his mind to get back to work to make sure there is no let off once he starts playing on the court again. “I train like no other. My discipline in eating healthy is there. So I think it’ll just be about learning how to play with my teammates. I started college a year early and I’m only 19 at the moment. So sitting out a year wouldn’t be a problem.” Tillman said. Tillman has completed two visits so far and he doesn’t have any plans of taking anymore in the future currently. “Many schools have contacted me and I won’t be taking any visits. I’ll be making a decision around the middle of next month.” As for Rutgers and Illinois, both are programs to look out for in the Big Ten in the coming years according to Tillman. “Both are upcoming Big Ten schools that are going to make a run for the top spots in the upcoming seasons,” Tillman said.