Red All Over: Donnie Tillman is in the transfer portal. Does that fit with his ‘leave of absence’ statement?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Donnie Tillman speaks with the press during media day at the Ute basketball practice facility on Wed. Sept. 26, 2018.

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In late May, Utah announced that after going through NBA evaluations, basketball player Donnie Tillman would return to school.

Nine days later, Tillman said he was taking a leave of absence from the school, stemming from his mother's health issues.

And then came reports, confirmed this week by Ute athletic director Mark Harlan to ESPN 700, that Tillman had entered the NCAA transfer portal. Does that move contradict Tillman’s previous statements? Somewhat, because it is now apparent that he’s never rejoining the Utes. But no, in the sense that transferring to another school – such as UNLV, where his mother lives, or a program in Michigan, the family’s home base – would enable Tillman to be near her. The portal “keeps his options open,” Harlan said.

Tillman could make a case for immediate eligibility at another school, citing his mother’s health, rather than have to sit out a year. Otherwise, he has a redshirt year available.

Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak’s statement last week thanking Tillman for his contributions to the program looks more like a farewell message. There’s a theory that Tillman did the Utes a disservice by not entering the portal earlier. But the NBA process lasted until May 29, and leaving at that point would have caused the same problems.

In any case, Utah’s 2019-20 roster is unlike any in the program’s history, with eight freshmen and three sophomores among 12 scholarship players. Prior to Tillman’s latest move, Harlan covered Krystkowiak’s program and several other subjects in a Tribune interview reviewing his first school year on the job.

Everything’s seemingly positive in the offseason discussion of Utah football. Here’s the school’s mid-June roundup of how publications rank Ute players in the Pac-12 and nationally.

Utah’s volleyball program is in the news this week, with the 2019 nonconference schedule being announced and coach Beth Launiere being honored by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation during an event Saturday at Sugar House Park. Here’s my story about how Launiere hopes to help others cope with the disease.

Ute players Dani Drews, Kenzie Koerber and Saige Kaahaaina-Torres recently toured Japan with a USA Volleyball team.

The Utes will open the season Aug. 30-31, hosting Saint Mary's, Kentucky and Cal Poly in the Utah Volleyball Classic. Utah will host BYU on Sept. 19, concluding the 11 matches of a nonconference schedule that Launiere says is the toughest of the program's Pac-12 era.

Other voices

• Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner compares the Pac-12 office’s expenditures with those of other Power Five conferences (MERC).

• Here’s how Ute quarterback Tyler Huntley ranks among the Pac-12 starters, with Athlon Sports’ thorough analysis (ATH).

• Dirk Facer of the Deseret News takes a where-are-they-now look at former Ute basketball player Larry Cain (DNEWS).

Around campus

• The Utah women’s basketball program has added a transfer who will be eligible in 2020-21 after redshirting. Zuzanna Puc averaged 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in three seasons at Texas-El Paso, after the 6-foot-2 forward played for the U18 and U20 Poland teams with current Utah forward Ola Makurat.

• Utah’s women’s soccer coach Rich Manning has added two staff members, assistant coach Allie Wisner and goalkeepers coach Devin Zimmerman. Wisner was a four-year starter for the Utes, graduating in 2014. She then played professionally in Europe and in the NWSL.