Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top Pre-Season Top 25 Player Countdown for the 2017-18 season. Each day, we’ll be publishing a new article counting down our best 25 players for the coming season. Today, we feature #4 Justin Tillman from VCU.
Our Top 25 Player Countdown is a compiled list based on voting from our staff and writers from across the league. Thanks to the following for helping configure this year’s Top 25 Atlantic 10 Player Countdown:
Grant Labedz (@GrantLabedz), Mat Shelton-Eide (@MatSheltonEide), Grant Kelly (@GrantKelly07), Andrew Phung (@LoveRI401), By George (@ByGeorgeGMU), Davidson Recruiting (@DavidsonMBBRecr), Steve DiMiceli (@SteveDiMiceli), Rhody Rampage (@RhodyRampage), UMass Recruiting (@UMassRecruiting), Bona Blog (@BonaBlog), Petey Buckets (@PeteyBuckets), and UMass Ball Report (@theumbr).
What He’s Done
Justin Tillman earned Preseason First Team All-Conference Honors earlier this week; he also makes our Top 25 list at #4. Heading into the 2016-17 season, Tillman was expected to make big jumps from his sophomore year; he did just that. The junior averaged 12.2 points and 8.7 rebounds in just 25.5 minutes per game. Extremely efficient on the boards, Tillman had the 1st and 3rd best offensive and defensive rebounding percentages in the league, respectively, and he was great at limiting turnovers, only coughing it up once per game.
Justin Tillman’s progression in the 16-17 season was enormous. With the exception of a 26 point, 9 rebound night against Georgia Tech, the junior was shaky in non-conference play, often struggling from the floor and the free throw line. Come conference play though, Tillman was churning out 15+ point, 8+ rebound nights consistently. He’d have a performance with 13 points and 16 boards against Davidson in February. That’s one heck of a double-double…
What He’ll Do
Tillman’s the anchor to a VCU team of new faces, and he’s fighting with Peyton Aldridge and Rashaan Holloway to be the “best big man in the league.” If you ask me, the Rams’ offense is going to run through their senior this season. Rhoades has a capable core of wings at his disposal, but Tillman’s the man in the middle. Don’t be surprised to see his APG go up with this year. With shooters like De’Riante Jenkins on the wing, and with the increased attention Tillman’s going to draw inside, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him kicking it out.
I think Tillman will be fighting with Rhode Island’s Cyril Langevine as the league’s best rebounder. He provides so much on the offensive and defensive glass, giving the Rams second chance opportunities and taking those away from opponents. Without Alie-Cox in the mix, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tillman evolve as a shot blocker as well. He averaged just 0.5 per game last year, but his 7 swats in VCU’s last 6 games could be an indicator. VCU will play through Tillman this year, and you should expect the big man to give Rhoades one heck of a first season.
Previously: #5 B.J. Johnson