MSU commit Xavier Tillman part of team effort downing Romulus, 74-52, advancing to state finals
Grand Rapids Christian high school senior forward and MSU-commit Xavier Tillman only scored 5 points on Friday, but he doesn't care.
His team blew out the Romulus high school Eagles Friday afternoon 74-52 in the MSHAA Class A championship semifinals at the Breslin Center. Grand Rapids Christian, also nicknamed the Eagles, will play Clarkston Saturday for the state championship title.
According to Tillman, he doesn't care because he did his job. The 6-foot-8 Tillman finished his team's state finals bid with a game-high seven blocks and six assists, along with eight rebounds.
"I have a team full of scorers so my job on this team is to facilitate," Tillman said.
Tillman helped forward and Oakland University-commit James Beck II score 24 points, guard Duane Washington Jr. deal 15, guard Setrick Millner Jr. add 11 and guard Thad Shymanski chip in 10.
Tillman wasn't the only player to pass the ball either. Washington also finished the game with six assists, and the team finished to assist 22 times on 31 baskets while turning the ball over five times.
The Grand Rapids Christian Eagles are so eager to pass the ball because according to head coach Mark Warners, they don't care either.
"The 22 assists speak a little to what I was saying," Warners said. "The guys don’t care. We’ve had very few times where the guy dribbles the ball up the court, makes a move, and goes to the basket. They run their sets well and most of those buckets will come off a pass."
When Tillman's team trailed to start the second half, he upped the ante. Going into halftime, Romulus held a 28-27 lead over Grand Rapids Christian.
Warners said he insisted on adding more pressure to the Romulus guards, and then the Eagles went on lockdown. In the third quarter, Romulus was held to 2-of-10 shooting from the field. Romulus finished the game shooting 35.2 percent from the field.
Romulus head coach Jerret Smith said Tillman's size was the biggest thorn in his team's side because of the difficulty it took getting to the post.
"When you can’t get shots it’s hard, especially when you have a kid that’s 6-foot-8, 260 in the middle of the lane," Smith said. "It’s very hard to get him out of the lane if you’re not hitting your shots. In the first half, we did a good job getting him out."
Even though Tillman finished the game with three shots from the field, Warners said just his presence on the court makes him a threat to opponents.
Once Grand Rapids Christian came out to start the second half, their game plan was to get Tillman more involved.
"We always say we have to get the ball into Xavier and let him make the play whether it’s for himself, or for his teammates, or at least draw attention — that was really the talk at halftime. You don’t know who’s going to score, and with these guys what’s been great all year is they don’t care. Xavier took three shots today and he’s one of the happiest guys in that locker room."
According to Warners, it's no easy task to take a team with multiple Divison I athletes this far in postseason play. Having a core of elite talent with a selfless play style is more than Warners could ever ask for.
"They’re awesome kids," Warners said. "I can’t tell you enough they put the team first. They love one another, they hang out outside the basketball game, but they’re truly great kids. And it does take a special kid to be a Division I athlete and have all these people telling them, ‘you should have 30 tonight, go get 30 tonight’ and for them to say the team is the most important. I feel especially fortunate to coach these kids."
With one more game remaining in Tillman's high school career, going out with a state title would be another accolade on his resume.
Tillman is listed as a four-star recruit according to 247sports, and is the top-ranked player in the state of Michigan. To Tillman, it seems fitting that before his career in East Lansing starts, his career at Grand Rapids Christian comes to an end with a win on the floor of the Breslin.
"We said two years ago we were going to leave with a championship and we’ve literally made it to the championship," Tillman said. "I mean it’s an unreal feeling. I’m blessed to be in this situation and I’m just living for the moment."