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Killian Tillie has been a pleasant surprise

Bryant v Gonzaga Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

If Gonzaga fans are being honest, they’d admit that they had no clue what Killian Tillie would bring to the table during his freshman campaign. Projecting how good European recruits can be is difficult with the limited scouting information available to us, and though there was some hype surrounding Tillie, imagination was the best resource to project what Tillie could bring to the Zags. Fast forward to the halfway point of his freshman season, and Tillie has locked down a rotation spot as a do-everything player for Mark Few.

While Tillie may not enjoy some of the numbers of Zach Collins, his fellow freshman tower, he works as a great complement to Collins and Gonzaga’s starting frontcourt in his role off the bench. In 14.7mpg, Tillie’s averages 4.8ppg, 4.1rpg, and under a steal, block and assist per game. He’s also been efficient, shooting 50% from deep, and 46.7% from the field overall.

Beyond the box score, Tillie provides tremendous energy and hustle and is equally adept on the perimeter as he is scrapping inside. Most importantly, Tillie represents another highly-skilled and athletic big man who can take up minutes in the frontcourt rotation—and be impactful while doing so—a luxury not enjoyed by the coaching staff last season. In fact, thanks to Tillie’s ability to step right into the rotation, none of Gonzaga’s big men have had to play big minutes, with Johnathan Williams leading the way at 22.1mpg.

There has been plenty to be pleased with in terms of Tillie’s production, but there are certainly areas upon which he can improve. While Tillie has been whistled for some unjust fouls, he’s also committed a fair amount of silly fouls as he learns to adjust to this level. He also has a great motor that the coaching staff does not want to quell, however, this can get him in trouble at times as his over-eagerness can pull him out of defensive or rebounding position. The good thing is these are issues that are borne out of inexperience and not a deficiency in talent.

One of the more enjoyable things about watching Tillie play this season has been his help defense. It’s obvious that Tillie grew up in a volleyball playing family when he spikes or stuffs a shot attempt by some poor sap on an opposing team.

Tillie has definitely earned his way onto the court at this juncture in his collegiate career, but it’s his future that should have Zag fans extremely excited. Now that he’s established his baseline, we can better project what Tillie can develop into, and the prospects are good.

Evidenced by his percentages, Tillie has a nice shooting stroke that extends out to the three-point line. Paired with his athleticism and ball skills, he can put defenses under pressure as he’s more than a spot-up shooter, and is an equal threat to put the ball on the floor and dunk over you as he is to pop a shot over your head. Some European players got a bad rap for being finesse players, but Tillie certainly is not, as he plays much stronger than anticipated and is more than comfortable battling in the post. He has all the tools to be a complete modern big man.

Tillie has been better than could have been reasonably expected going into the season, but there’s certainly still room for him to grow. As he becomes more comfortable and matures on the court, Gonzaga fans should expect to see his on-court performance continue to improve as the season moves along.

Midseason Grade: B