Utah basketball: Tillie aims to enforce a win for Utes
It's highly unlikely Utah forward Kim Tillie is ever going to light up the scoreboard like freshman Marshall Henderson or challenge any shot-blocking records the way center David Foster does.
Tillie, a 6-foot-11, 230-pound senior, is a steadier, more behind-the-scenes blue-collar basketball player than most of his teammates.
He is often overlooked as a result, but his play easily could make the difference between a win and a loss when the Utes visit BYU Saturday.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Utes this season is while they are talented, they aren't tough enough, as evidenced in the way they lag in rebounding in the conference.
Tillie, who recently returned to the lineup after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, is the Utes' enforcer who doesn't shy away from physical contact and mixing it up under the basket.
He doesn't mind saying he believes the Utes have a chance against their rivals, even if everyone else gives the Utes little hope of succeeding.
"We've been doing pretty good on road games," he said. "Being an underdog helps, but I don't think we are considered an underdog anymore because we are becoming a team. We've got a good chance. If we play hard, it's going to be a pretty good game."
The best example of how the Utes like to use him was at UNLV when he had six points and five rebounds before fouling out after 16 minutes.
He wasn't in long, but the Utes needed his physical style particularly since forward Jay Watkins was absent.
"With Jay Watkins not being able to play extended minutes and Shawn Glover learning, Kim is a veteran guy who has been there and can hold down the fort for us," Utah coach Jim Boylen said. "We can use him at the four, play him at the five, use him in a small lineup, use him in a big lineup. His versatility really helps us."
Tillie is averaging 8.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 20.5 minutes a game this year but contributes in ways that don't show up just in his stats. His presence has helped center David Foster grow into his role too, Foster said.
The Utes have struggled on the boards, but Foster said he is getting better with Tillie's encouragement.
"He sets a good example and that makes me want to do better," he said. "He'll be out there saying we need to get five or six offensive rebounds then he sets that example. He doesn't even have to say anything, just watching him rebound makes me want to improve."
Tillie missed just two games after the surgery, recovering much quicker than the three weeks it was anticipated it would take him to do so. A little tentative at first, Tillie said he is finding his form again now.
"I feel like I'm almost 100 percent," he said. "It doesn't hurt and my conditioning feels like I'm almost all the way back too."
Tillie still is limited in minutes, but he is determined to make the most of what he'll get after being pinned to the bench with the injury.
"Sometimes on rebounding I'd watch games and think maybe if I was in there I could have got this rebound," he said. "It's a real area I can help the team with rebounding and defending."
He is eager to get his shot at the Cougars in that area.
"I've had a week off," he said of the down time with the injury. "I have a lot of energy right now."
» 6-foot-11, 230 pounds, senior
» Cagnes-sur-Mer France
Pts. »16 vs. Utah St., 12/5/07
Rebs. » 10, twice
FG Made » 7 vs. Utah St., 12/5/07
3-Pt. FG » 2 vs. Utah St., 12/5/07
Free Throws » 5 at Mo. St., 11/28/08
Assists » 3 vs. TCU, 3/7/09
Blocks » 2, three times
Steals » 3, at UC Irvine, 12/27/08
Minutes » 27 vs. Green Bay, 11/18/08