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BOYS BASKETBALL RECRUITING: Pershing star Tillman wastes little time, picks VCU

By: Scott Burnstein, September 3, 2013, 9:00 am

DETROIT – One visit was all he needed.

Mr. Basketball candidate Justin Tillman of Detroit Pershing only needed a single trip to a college campus to decide where he wanted to play at the next level.

That campus was in Richmond, Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University, a burgeoning mid-major powerhouse under the guidance of Shaka Smart, one of the top young, up-and-coming head coaches in the country.

Tillman, a 6-foot-8 forward that has the ability to hurt opponents in the post, on the perimeter and in the transition game, visited and committed to VCU over the weekend.

He averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds per night last year as a junior on a Pershing squad that went 25-1, was the state’s No. 1 team for the entire regular season and captured city, district and regional titles on its way to the Class A quarterfinals.

After an incredibly strong showing last summer, Tillman blasted on to the national college recruiting scene. Fielding a dozen Division I scholarship offers and according to reports being on the verge of earning offers from Michigan and Michigan State, the multi-talented Doughboy was content concluding his courtship early.

Iowa, Iowa State, Xavier, Providence and Rhode Island are some of the other programs that had offered him. Locally, Tillman had already gotten nods from Oakland University – where his point guard from Pershing Kahlil Felder is about to begin his freshman year with the Golden Grizzlies – and the University of Detroit-Mercy.

In Smart’s four-year tenure at VCU, he’s led the Rams to a Final Four (2011) and three straight appearances in the Sweet 16. Last season, VCU finished 27-9. The Rams currently have no players on their roster who prepped in the state of Michigan.

If Tillman nabs the 2014 Mr. Basketball award next winter, he’ll become the fifth player from Pershing to do so (the four now are Willie Mitchell, Winifred Walton, Derrick Nix, Keith Appling). Pershing has more Mr. Basketballs and NBA alums (7) than any other high school in MHSAA history.

During the summers, Tillman suits up on the AAU circuit with the REACH Legends.

A few weeks ago, he was selected to participate in the first-ever Michigan Elite 25, retired NBA center Tim McCormick’s prestigious prep hoops showcase camp that invites the best 25 players from each class in the state to participate in a six-session training program that preaches both on and off-the-court skill-development.

There was no question that he stood out as one of the premiere players at the event’s pair of tip-off sessions held at Detroit Cass Tech in mid-August, where he was impressing in scrimmages and drill-station work.