Heading into his senior season, things are beginning to pick up for Donnie Tillman, one of the most versatile forwards of the 2017 class. The combination of things Tillman is able to do on the court with his 6-foot-7 inch, 220 pound frame has grabbed the attention of many programs, and he has already received offers from Utah, Iowa State, Cal, USC and Marquette with many more schools showing interest.
Tillman has proven to be one of those players who is willing to do anything to help his team become better. “My biggest strength is that I am really versatile. I can push it. I’ve got a pretty good shot, I’m a defensive-minded player, I’ll play both sides of the ball really hard,” said Tillman. “You can put me anywhere you want on the floor, 2-4, it doesn’t matter.”
One thing that makes him so versatile is that he doesn’t demand the ball to leave his mark on the court. Although he has the ability to take over a game he understands that by including all five players, his team only gets stronger. “I like to create and pass off the wing. I really like to get others involved,” he said.
Being a self aware player, Tillman understands that there are some areas in which he will need to improve to make an impact at the next level and he is willing to put in the work. Tillman explained, “My weakness is creating space on my shot. Knowing when to shoot and when to drive. That decision. Sometimes when I drive, I should have shot it. Sometimes when I shot I should have taken the drive. That and working on recognizing mismatches.”
Looking ahead to the next level, Tillman took his first unofficial visit to the University of Utah last weekend. His trip marked the first time he has ever been to Utah and Tillman was completely blown away. “Everything you hear of course is Mormons and BYU. You tell people you’re going to Utah and they’re like, ‘Ugghh, Utah! What?’” laughed Tillman. “It was a huge shock. But if you go there it will completely just blow your mind, seriously. It was an amazing time, I love the people. I will tell everyone to take a visit to Utah and you will be shocked.”
Tillman, who grew up in Detroit, Michigan, was able to play for some of the same coaches that coached other current Utah basketball players, Kyle Kuzma and Lorenzo Bonam. Tillman has kept in contact with the two, so when he stepped foot in Salt Lake and was greeted by the players, he instantly felt at home. “I know a lot of the players on the basketball team, so it wasn’t anything new hanging with those dudes. Kyle Kuzma, JoJo, Lorenzo, Jayce, I know the majority of those dudes. It felt like home,” said Tillman.
Tillman's first order of business in Utah was to attend the Utah-BYU football game Saturday night. The energy of the crowd made a big impact on Tillman. “The atmosphere at the football game! Just knowing you have fans like that every night at the football and basketball games. It’s a college town. Everyone is always reppin’ the U,” he said. “Everyone treated me with the utmost respect. It was an amazing feel overall. Lots of people knew who I was, I met around a hundred people everyone came shaking my hand. It was really great.”
Tillman had the opportunity to spend time with head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who made it known just how much Utah likes the versatile wing. “I sat down with Coach K numerous times, he was really excited to have me there. He really, really wants to coach me. He would love to have me here,” explained Tillman. “He says I’m their main focus as of right now. He said he would use me as a versatile wing. He sees me as a pretty good iso player, and that I can create things for others. I’ll fit great into that system.”
Tillman loved what Utah has to offer, including their updated facilities. “There is no reason why, I think, with those facilities and what they offer, they have so much technology, nutritionists, sports science- there’s no reason why you shouldn’t become a better you, a better person and better player. That should be like a pro-factory over there,” said Tillman. “If I were to decide to go there I think I would take full advantage of all the things they have over there. The facilities are top five-star.”
Tillman won’t make a decision until later in his senior season, but Utah has already set the bar high as to what he looks for in a school. Ultimately he will decide on the place at which he has the best relationship with the coaches and where he feels most at home.
As far as Utah is concerned, Tillman said, “I love Utah. Utah is something different. The combination of fan base, facilities, history, Coach K playing in the NBA, there’s so many positives there. I loved every second of it.”