Utah’s basketball program is retaining the Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year, and forward Donnie Tillman will have a bigger role for one of the youngest teams in school history in 2019-20.
Tillman is returning to the program for his junior year, the school announced, after going through the NBA’s evaluation process in May. His decision came late Wednesday afternoon, on the final day for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft and retain their college eligibility.
Tillman averaged 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 2018-19 for the Utes, who finished 17-14 overall and placed third in the conference with an 11-7 mark. Utah's 2019-20 roster of 13 scholarship players includes six incoming freshmen, two redshirt freshmen, three sophomores and two juniors – Tillman and guard Alfonso Plummer, a junior college transfer.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Tillman, who will turn 20 in August, worked out for the Jazz last Friday.
“What I saw out there was a player that’s got a nice, strong body, and knows how to use it going to the basket,” said Walt Perrin, the Jazz’s vice president of player personnel. “Needs to probably learn how to finish a little bit better. His shot was a little bit inconsistent; he needs to work on that to go further in this profession. But he showed a lot of energy.”
As a sophomore, Tillman improved to 36.1-percent shooting from 3-point range (44.8 percent in conference games) and 78.3 percent from the free-throw line. His best game in Pac-12 play came in a win at Washington State. He posted 16 points and 11 rebounds and held WSU forward Robert Franks to seven points in the second half, while guarding the all-conference player mostly one-on-one.
“Donnie’s a super-talented player, one of the most athletic teammates I’ve ever had, so he has the tools,” former Ute guard Sedrick Barefield said that day. “When he comes with that mentality, he’s an amazing two-way player.”
Barefield went through the NBA evaluations last year, then produced an All-Pac-12 season as a senior.
Former Ute center Jayce Johnson, who’s joining Marquette’s program as a graduate transfer, earlier withdrew from the draft. Johnson had entered the draft process shortly after going into the NCAA transfer portal in early April.
UTAH’S 2019-20 BASKETBALL ROSTER
Freshmen – G Elias Ballstaedt*, G Jaxon Brenchley, F Branden Carlson, G Brandon Haddock*, F Mikael Jantunen, G Rylan Jones, C Matt Van Komen, G Brendan Wenzel.
Redshirt freshmen – G Naseem Gaskin, F Lahat Thioune.
Sophomores – F Timmy Allen, F Riley Battin, G Ben Bittner*, F Both Gach, G Brooks King*.
Juniors – G Alfonso Plummer, F Donnie Tillman.
Senior – F Marc Reininger*
* Non-scholarship player.