Michigan State basketball got everything possible from Xavier Tillman

Xavier Tillman, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Xavier Tillman has decided to move on from Michigan State basketball to the NBA and the Spartans got everything they could from him.

Just minutes after receiving word about Aaron Henry’s return to Michigan State for the 2020-21 season, fans were given more somber news as Xavier Tillman decided to forgo his senior year.

Losing Tillman hurts the Spartans’ title hopes while Henry’s return builds them. It doesn’t quite balance out because the two play different positions and Michigan State doesn’t have a ton of experience returning to the post.

Sure, Thomas Kithier, Joey Hauser and Marcus Bingham Jr. are back, but they don’t have a ton of extended experience. They will be the veterans while guys like Julius Marble and Mady Sissoko will look to help replace Tillman.

This decision doesn’t come as a major surprise given that Tillman is a projected first-rounder and he gave just about everything he could to Michigan State. He accomplished almost everything you can in the college ranks and there’s no reason to try and improve from a late-first to a mid-first round pick especially since the 2020-21 season isn’t a guarantee.

Plus, there’s always the risk of injury.

Tillman gave everything to Michigan State basketball

Coming in as the No. 112 recruit in the country in the class of 2017, no one expected Xavier to be as good as he was in a Spartan uniform. He was slightly bigger than Tom Izzo wanted him to be, weight-wise, and he didn’t do anything exceptionally well. That changed quickly.

Tillman had a quiet freshman season but worked on getting his body right and came back swinging as a sophomore, averaging 10 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for a Final Four squad. He filled in nicely for an injured Nick Ward and never looked back.

Expectations were sky-high for his junior year but those seemed to weigh on him, as well as the impending birth of his second child, and he started slow.

Tillman ended up catching fire in the second half of the season and easing back into his normal play, averaging 13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He was good enough to win the Big Ten defensive player of the year award, adding to his collection of honors.

On top of being a great student, he was a husband, father of two, three-time Big Ten champion, defensive player of the year, Final Four participant and program record-holder for blocks.

Oh, and he graduated in three years while raising a family.

What a career for Xavier and well-earned NBA departure.

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