View Full Version : Sam Vecenie "Killian Tillie Becoming a Problem for Opponents"

12-04-2017, 12:17 PM
Vecenie has been writing biweekly WCC Notebooks on The Athletic and I loved the focus of his article this week on Tillie. The video he posted of Tillie's defense against Creighton is seriously impressive but I don't think it will be possible to link to it here.

Killian Tillie played 12 minutes per game last year, but to look at the 6-foot-10 sophomore forward's minutes is to undersell his impact on Gonzaga’s national runner-up team. He was the team’s secret weapon, Mark Few’s “problem solver” whenever he needed to counteract something an opposing coach was doing.

“If a team threw zone at us, we’d just put Tillie in,” Few said in October. “Against junk man-to-man, we’d throw Tillie in. In games where we thought they were more aggressive and beating us to the ball, we’d throw Tillie in. They’re trapping, pressing. We’d put Tillie in there. I think he’s primed for a big year.”

Fast forward two months later, and Tillie is indeed posting the type of season Few anticipated. Having doubled his minutes per game to over 24, he’s scoring 12.4 points and grabbing 6.9 rebounds. He finally broke out in a big way in the Zags’ showdown against No. 25 Creighton, scoring 22 points, snagging eight rebounds, and dealing out three assists. But to go off of the numbers alone also does him a disservice. Tillie’s contributions go above and beyond the score sheet, particularly on the defensive end.

Last season, the Bulldogs had the best defense in college basketball, largely due to their ability to protect the rim. Przemek Karnowski was one of the most effective interior defenders in the country. Behind him was 7-foot lottery pick Zach Collins, the first one-and-done player in the school’s history. That deterrent was the biggest reason why teams shot 40 percent from 2-point range and 42.7 percent at the rim, both good for second in the U.S.

This season, Few is operating differently. Instead of filtering shots to the interior, Gonzaga is playing more of a switch-heavy style due to the superior foot speed of their big men. Tillie’s quickness showed against Creighton’s mobile, perimeter-oriented offense. Despite the Bluejays possessing a top-25 offense entering the game, the Zags held them to under one point per possession. In the game, Tillie showcased everything any coach or evaluator could ask for from a big man. He's No. 33 in white in the video below.

He is mobile enough to switch every screen and end up on an island against even the quickest scoring guards. His help defense is terrific both on the interior and in space, showcasing his tremendous feel for the game. At the rim, he’s been taught well by Gonzaga’s coaching staff in the art of verticality. He closes out on shooters under control, and contests shots well with his big frame providing length.
Basically, not only is Tillie bringing more in terms of production, but he’s maintaining the little stuff that made him Few’s favorite weapon to deploy last year. That makes him one of the most valuable players in the West Coast Conference, and a player who is starting to get increased buzz in NBA circles as a potential role player. And he’s a big reason why the Zags are 7-1 and a bit ahead of where even the most optimistic people thought they would be.

12-04-2017, 12:19 PM
Found a link to the video, can't embed it but definitely worth watching: https://streamable.com/s/nceyf/lxufel

12-04-2017, 12:26 PM
The biggest issue with Tillie right now is that he MUST refrain from committing silly fouls. The team cannot afford it, and he cannot afford it in terms of his development as a prospect. Every game he gets at least one foul where the post player gets the ball, and he tries to reach in and steal it. He's so much better off just using his feet, staying vertical and forcing the guy into shots that he doesn't want to take. He needs to regard all fouls as a precious commodity. GU just doesn't have the post depth it did last year.

12-04-2017, 12:52 PM
I would say about a quarter of his fouls are questionable. He is in good position but at times the refs call anticipated fouls. He is doing a great job as well as the other bigs of putting his arms straight up and not reaching in.
Keep it going Zags.