Tillman keeps name in NBA Draft, will forego final season of eligibility


Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman. (Photo: MSU Athletic Communications)

Nathan Stearns, Sports Editorial Assistant

EAST LANSING- Going into next season, Michigan State will need to replace over 32 points of production as both Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman will be entering the NBA Draft.

“Based on the feedback I’ve received from NBA teams, I am excited to announce my intention to hire an agent and pursue one of my lifelong dreams. I will keep my name in the 2020 draft,” Tillman said in a statement. 

Tillman went on to thank his teammates, fans and coaches in the press release. 

Several mock drafts have projected Tillman as a late-first to early second-round pick.  Despite shooting concerns, Tillman’s upstanding character, rebounding ability and strong defensive post play are three key characteristics that have enticed prospective NBA teams. 

Tillman announced his intention to stay in the draft only minutes after his teammate, Aaron Henry, announced that he would be returning to Michigan State for his junior year. 

The reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year was a consistent double-double threat night in and night out as he averaged 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game on the season.  For his efforts, he was named second-team All-Big Ten in 2020. 

In a press release, Tom Izzo stated that “Xavier has been an excellent player and an even better person for Michigan State Basketball. He came here as a young man with a great upside and has developed into one of the best college basketball players in the country. He devoted himself to our program for three years and balanced that with being a husband, a father, an All-American caliber player on the floor and an Academic All-American student in the classroom.”

Overall, Tillman notched 913 points and 696 rebounds during his three years at Michigan State. The Grand Rapids native was an instrumental piece in the Spartans’ 2018-19 run to the Final Four.  MSU also won or shared the Big Ten Regular-Season championship in every one of Tillman’s three total seasons.  

Tillman graduated with a degree in Journalism in the spring of 2020 and welcomed his second child, Xavier Tillman Jr, with his wife Tamia in February. 

With Tillman gone, returning junior Marcus Bingham Jr, sophomore Julius Marble and 4-star freshman Mady Sissoko will be competing for the starting center position. Bingham averaged 3.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 31 games played last season.  Sissoko, meanwhile, is rated as the eighth-best center in the country by 247Sports.

Where Michigan State goes from here is unknown; what is known is that losing Tillman will sting for quite a bit of time.