UNLV Basketball: Donnie Tillman Declared Eligible for 2019-20
The junior forward transferred from Utah during the offseason
Tillman should immediately join the Rebels’ starting lineup
Former Utah standout Donnie Tillman has received a waiver from the NCAA that will allow him to play immediately after transferring to UNLV this past season.
The decision from the sport’s governing body gives new head coach T.J. Otzelberger a talented forward to compliment high-scoring guard Amauri Hardy. Tillman, a 6’7” junior, was the Utes’ third-leading scorer (10.5 PPG) and second-leading rebounder (5.3 RPG) a year ago. For his efforts, Tillman received the Pac-12’s Sixth Man of the Year award, despite starting nearly half of Utah’s games.
Tillman provides value at the rim as well as from beyond the arc. The junior attempted 122 three-pointers last year, knocking them down at a reasonable 36.1% clip. He also managed to get to the line relatively often. For every 100 shot attempts, the junior attempted 44.8 free throws. Of the Runnin’ Rebels players who attempted more than 100 shot, only Cheick Mbacke Diong had a better free throw rate (55.9). The dual abilities of attacking the hoop and knocking down the long ball make Tillman a very important player for this UNLV team.
And while he was a valuable piece off the bench for Larry Krystkowiak, odds are that Tillman will be starting for Otzelberger this year. His presence in the frontcourt should help alleviate the losses of Shakur Juiston and Joel Ntambwe, both of whom transferred out of the program this summer.
Tillman took a leave of absence from Utah in June to be with his mother, who lives in Nevada after moving there in order to help her son pursue his basketball career. He eventually transferred to UNLV, and the NCAA saw fit to grant a hardship waiver for the situation.
The move also gives this year’s active roster a little extra Detroit flavor. Though Tillman eventually attended Findlay College Prep in Henderson, Nevada, he is originally from Motor City — just like his new teammate Hardy.
That could speed along the process of building camaraderie and chemistry for these Runnin’ Rebels.
Though there are still a handful of teams that project to be better than the Rebels, the one-two punch of Hardy and Tillman ranks among the better duos in the league. Having the junior forward available immediately will also help to smooth the transition for Otzelberger in his first year in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Optimism was already abounding for next year, when South Dakota State transfer David Jenkins becomes eligible. But with Tillman active, the Rebels are in a much better place coming into the 2019-20 season.
Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.