Sam Webb: You burst onto the scene. Let us talk about your first high school season. How was it?
Xavier Tillman: “It was real fun. Playing high school was just a good experience for me to help my AAU performance work out very well. Playing high school ball also helped me get a lot stronger because a lot bigger and stronger people out there that I had to match up with.”
Sam Webb: Was that the toughest adjustment? What was the biggest adjustment for you, stepping onto the high school scene?
Xavier Tillman: “Actually the biggest adjustment was playing in front of the audience. Thousands and thousands of people, it was kind of scary but after awhile I got used to it and started playing and I started to enjoy it.”
Sam Webb: As you started doing better and better as the season went on, people started to know who you were. Did you notice that on the court, that teams were paying more attention to you?
Xavier Tillman: “I did after awhile when in one game I tried to make a spin move and realized that five people were right next to me from the other team and I didn’t know I guess. I guess they knew they had a scouting report on me because I couldn’t score or anything that game.”
Sam Webb: Pretend for a second you are a scout or a coach in the stands and you’re watching Xavier Tillman on the basketball court. Break down your own game for me. What do you do well and what do you need to work on?
Xavier Tillman: “Rebounding, runs the floor very well, very good at passing the ball and also has the ball hand within transition, sees the floor very well. Needs to improve on getting aggressive when he is inside shooting those 15 footers, 10-15 footers when they are open and free throws.”
Sam Webb: So all of the things that you are working out here in AAU, one of the things that has happened, now colleges have started to take notice. What schools are you hearing from already this young in your career?
Sam Webb: You went to that Michigan State visit really quick and your interaction with Tom Izzo, what was that like?
Xavier Tillman: “As soon as I walked in there they said my name like I was some famous person. They said, ‘Mr. Tillman, we have your tickets for you.’ After I got my tickets, we sat down in the Izzone where the student section was and it was crazy because it was like I was really getting recruited. After the game was over, I got to shake hands with Drew Neitzel and Gary Harris and Adrian Payne. I was like, this is wow, okay. When I talked to Tom Izzo, it was great. It felt like he was my coach for a long time because he was talking to me so openly, like he knew me for awhile.”
Sam Webb: What about the visit to Michigan?
Xavier Tillman: “Michigan, it was fun too. I got to go behind the scenes and see how they would do after the games, how they would sit in the locker room and have like a team chatter about how they play, win or loss. They always stuck together as a family. It was great to be at Michigan.”
Sam Webb: It is well publicized that your mom played at Michigan and went to Michigan. Did you grow up a Michigan fan?
Xavier Tillman: “Always. Always grew up a Michigan fan. I think I will always be a Michigan fan but I don’t think that will be decision maker of where I will go to school.”
Sam Webb: Did you watched both team as they were going through season through tournament?
Xavier Tillman: “No, I focus on the teams that I actually have winning the bracket. I did not focus on those teams very much. Every once in awhile when I could see them, I saw them. It was sweet because I was like I know the coach, he talked me before.”
Sam Webb: Fast forward for me. You are a junior or senior, whenever you are going to make that decision. Your criteria, when you get ready to make that choice, that important choice, what are going to be the biggest factors?
Xavier Tillman: “I have to love, love, love the coach and the players that are going to be coming in with me, also have to love them. They have to be like my brothers from the start. I have to be so comfortable. When I’m comfortable I always play well. I think that is the number one factor, just my comfortability, if I feel good then that is where I want to go.”
Sam Webb: What did your mom tell you about the whole process?
Xavier Tillman: “Michigan, that’s it. Michigan, blue and maize, that’s it, blue and maize.”