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Sophomore Donnie Tillman leaves Detroit Cass Tech for Findlay Prep in Nevada

By: Branden Hunter, July 31, 2014, 8:52 am

DETROIT – Another one bites the dust. The state of Michigan might want to put barbed wire around the border to keep our most budding high school basketball players from leaving the state. Already this month, Josh Jackson of Detroit Consortium, Jaire Grayer of Flint Southwestern, and Bakari Evelyn from Southfield Christian, have all decided to bolt for schools out of state. Now you can add Detroit Cass Tech’s Donnie Tillman to that list. 

Yes, sadly, the 6-6, 205-pound sophomore announced yesterday via Twitter that he would be attending Findlay Prep in Nevada. Tillman, who’s a top five player in his class in the state, surprised everyone with that news, but felt the move was needed.

"One of the main factors was mostly my mother," he said. "You know, we both decided it’s time to move on to bigger, and better things."

Tillman was a key contributor as a freshman on Cass Tech’s team that made it all the way to the Class A state regionals last season. Now he’ll go play for one of the top prep schools in the nation, arguably No.1, and new head coach Andy Johnson. Tillman also considered Bishop Gorman, also one of the premier high school basketball programs in the nation, located in Nevada as well, but decided on Findlay .Prep

"Findlay has a great history of top producing the players in the nation, McDonald’s All-Americans, and some high major players have come through there," Tillman said. "Plus the offense they run fits me perfectly. It spreads the floor, and is more of a drive and kick type of offense.

"Coach Johnson said he is very excited to have me in his program, and sees great things in my future here. I love how much they focus on you as person, as well as basketball."

Moving thousands of miles away to a land that is  foreign to you isn’t easy for anyone, especially someone who can’t even get into R-rated movies yet. Leaving all of your friends and family behind will be tough, but Tillman is more than ready to take the challenge head on.

I thought about it, but no, I have no worries," he said. If i keep working on my game, and improving everyday, I’ll be perfectly fine."

Tillman was just coming into his own in Detroit, and was beginning to make a name for himself. The super-athletic power forward, who cleans the glass better than Windex, picked up his first three college scholarship offers from Cleveland State, UNLV, and Iowa State recently, and from then on, just about everyone knew who Donnie Tillman was. Now Las Vegas will be his new home, and although he can’t hit the strip and gamble just yet, should have a successful career at Findlay Prep.

"I’m expecting to be a more complete wing player, and add some more strength onto my frame at Findlay," said Tillman. "Life wise, I just hope to become more of a man, that’s it. I plan on working hard there, because hard work is everything in life."

Transferring has hit the high school scene hard over the last few years, especially in Michigan. Some view it as morally wrong for the players, and then others think it can help them athletically, and academically. Everyone has their own opinion on the subject, but Tillman is all for seeing if it’s greener on the other side.

"It depends on them, the player," he said. "If its already a good thing going, why leave? But if you want more exposure, then a move is necessary."

Tillman has been blessed to have a great support system around him, who have helped guide him through the recruiting process, and his decision to attend prep school. Most players have their parents, coaches, and friends to ask for advice, but Tillman also has an older brother, Clark Bishop, who plays basketball collegiately at Wayne State University. Bishop was a standout himself at Detroit Renaissance in 2013, and has helped his little brother, who has six inches or so on him, deal with the rigors of being a student-athlete.

"Clark has given me so much advice about growing up, and staying focused," said Tillman. "He tells me to just ball out, and we just worked out today on shooting, and driving to the rim."

Tillman doesn’t have any ill will towards his former school Cass Tech, and actually enjoyed starting his career off as a Technician, and all the experience being apart of the team last season has given him. It’s business, and never personal with him, but he did give some hope to Cass Tech basketball fans about a possible return. Don’t hold your breath though.

"It was amazing, and I loved my time at Cass Tech," he said. "To all the players and coaches, thanks for pushing me, and making me the best I could be. I’m going to miss everyone dearly.

"Cass Tech is like my first home, and if I don’t like it in Nevada, I’m coming home."