Thursday, October 29, 2020

Xavier Tillman to remain in NBA draft, Aaron Henry to return to MSU

August 2, 2020
Junior forward Xavier Tillman Sr. high fives fans after a win over Iowa. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 78-70, at the Breslin Student Events Center on February 25, 2020.
Junior forward Xavier Tillman Sr. high fives fans after a win over Iowa. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 78-70, at the Breslin Student Events Center on February 25, 2020. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Michigan State basketball's Xavier Tillman announced Sunday he will keep his name in the 2020 NBA draft instead of playing for what would be his senior season.

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

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Forever Grateful 💚 💚 💚

A post shared by Xavier Tillman Sr. (@xavier_tillman23) on

The 6-foot-8-inch forward was a stand-out defender for the Spartans, earning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award for the 2019-20 season. During his final season, he averaged 10.3 rebounds, 13.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks per game.

Xavier has been an excellent player and an even better person for Michigan State Basketball," head coach Tom Izzo said of Tillman's departure. "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.  At the same time, Xavier is a tremendous family man and student-athlete.  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."

Tillman married his wife Tamia in May 2019. They have two children, Ayanna who is three and Xavier who was born this past February.

As a player, Tillman saw three Big Ten regular-season titles, one Big Ten tournament title and a Final Four appearance during his time at MSU.

“To Spartan Nation: We have had an amazing ride for three record breaking years," Tillman said. “To my brothers:  Fellas y'all know how I feel about y'all already, X wouldn't be X without the One Game at a Time group chat members."

Junior Aaron Henry took the opposite route, telling ESPN that he will withdraw from the draft and return to MSU.

Henry announced that he would be testing the NBA waters earlier this year but he told ESPN that the limited opportunity to work out and practice with teams due to COVID-19 concerns played a large part in his decision to remove his name from the draft.

"That played a big part, not being able to work out for teams," Henry said according to ESPN. "Not be able to get up close and show them specific things they had question marks about. I think a lot of those questions would have been answered if the pandemic wasn't going on. The virus played a huge part in people's decision. Players like me who depend on things like workouts or the NBA combine to raise my stock. We needed that. It is what it is. I'm not mad or pressed about it."

Henry has made strides during his two years in East Lansing. He finished the 2019-20 season averaging 10 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

The announcements come following a wave of big wins in recruiting for Izzo and his team, locking down three five-star commits for the 2021 and 2022 class. However, Izzo will now have to replace both Cassius Winston and Tillman, who he commonly referred to as his "Batman and Robin," before his rising stars join the squad.

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Oct. 16.

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