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Xavier Tillman Sr. brings maturity, versatility to Memphis

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An impressive first impression

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NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Friday afternoon, the Memphis Grizzlies introduced Xavier Tillman Sr. — the 35th pick of the 2020 NBA draft, by way of a draft night trade with the Sacramento Kings — to the media via Zoom.

The four-year Spartan brings a lot of maturity as a college veteran, but also as a father and a husband. As the league is getting younger, and players are entering the draft at 19 and 20 years old, Tillman’s approach and situation is different — as he has a family of his own to account for in the whole process.

His maturity radiates through his poise and approach to the game, as he’s a true student for the game. Over the course of the call, he states his passion for studying film, but he also loves watching highlights, interviews, and listening to podcasts with former players.

The biggest storyline here is his reunion with fellow Spartan Jaren Jackson Jr. Their friendship runs deep, as Jaren is Tillman’s best friend — and was the best man in his wedding.

On the court, Tillman’s fit is interesting, since his skillset is unique for a big man. Over the course of the interview, he emphasizes his work in the short-roll game as a playmaker. Offensively, he bodes well with either Jackson or Brandon Clarke. Tillman sees them as two perimeter threats that can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways.

On the other side of the court, he’s another strong defender who can serve as a backline communicator that can anchor the defense and switch positions. And as he continues to absorb information, you should see his defensive upside come to fruition more and more each passing game.

Finally, the coolest part of the interview — something I didn’t put together until Tillman said it — was who he modeled his game after. When I asked him this, I knew he’d likely say Draymond Green, but the profiles are strikingly similar.

Tillman went into detail on how he studies Draymond and Bam Adebayo’s games — their defensive versatility, offensive shot arsenal, and playmaking.

Xavier Tillman Sr. is another find from Zach Kleiman and company that really fits the standard and identity this team is looking to set for this next-gen Memphis Grizzlies team.

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