Cass Tech’s Donnie Tillman to Transfer to Findlay Prep

1 Aug

14152556-standardThe out of state transfer route hit Michigan the hardest in July.  Soon to be junior and number one player in the class of 2016 Josh Jackson decided to return to his home state of California and compete at Justin-Siena High School, senior Bakari Evelyn transferred from Southfield Christian to Gilbert Christian in Arizona to play for former Country Day head coach Kurt Keener, while senior Jaire Grayer made his intentions clear of not returning to Flint Southwestern.  However, the most surprising was the fourth transfer announced this month.  As class of 2017 6’6″ forward Donnie Tillman of Detroit Cass Tech, a top five player in Michigan’s rising sophomore class, made public he will not return to the Technecians for his 10th grade year.

Search Findlay Prep basketball alumni on Google, and a long and distinguished list of players who have made a living in the NBA come up.  2013 NBA overall number one pick Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtic’s Avery Bradley, and NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs Cory Joseph all hail from Findlay Prep, a program located in the city of Henderson, Nevada, roughly a 20 minute drive from Las Vegas.  The Pilots have claimed three high school national championships since 2009, while producing seven McDonalds All-Americans and Jordan Brand Classic participants respectively.

“I’m really excited to be accepted into Findlay Prep,” Tillman had to say, “it was a really hard decision (to leave Cass) but with support from friends and family there’s no worries.”

The MHSAA for years has imposed strict rules on schools on who they can and cannot play out of state  The state must share a border with Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and/or the schools must not be more than 300 miles apart from one another.  The rule prevents teams from traveling the country to showcase their skills on the national stage, which opposite to Michigan values, is the entire basis for Findlay Prep.

There name Findlay Prep only signifies the ten member basketball team, there is no such traditional high school that exists called Findlay Prep.  The players enroll in classes at the nearby Henderson International School, a preschool through 12 grade fully-accredited private school.  When the players are out of class, their in either practice or a jet to participate in tournaments both nationally and internationally.

Playing 30-40 games is appealing to most high school players, in particular Donnie’s case coming from a state with a limit of only 20 regular season games.  And a handful of the Pilots games are nationally televised on ESPN or CBS Sports, whereas in Michigan players would be lucky just to see their face on local cable.  Tillman embraces the challenge of showcasing his abilities on the national stage, and admits there will be a learning curve of playing the premier talent the nation has to offer on the highest stage.

“It will be difficult at first, but after going through the strength and conditioning skills training, I’ll be more than ready to play on national TV and against some of the best.”

Tillman over the Spring/Summer of AAU, competing with the Detroit Stars and The Family, was already beginning to catch the eye of many college coaches nationally only as a freshman.  Donnie noted colleges took interest in his ability to rebound the ball at a high level, score inside and in the midrange, display ball handling ability for a forward, and play well defensively in both the post and perimeter.  Cleveland State, UNLV, and Iowa State all extended offers to Tillman in about a month long period, while schools like Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State were keeping tabs on the young forward.

Donnie’s reason(s) for leaving are no different than every player that has left Michigan before or will be in the future unless the rules change.  Players want exposure, they want to challenge themselves against the “so-called” top players in the country.  Who wouldn’t?  Scholarship and college opportunities are at stake, and more important the life lessons that can be learned when facing difficult challenges on a repetitive basis.  Perseverance, determination, resolve, and commitment are all valuable teaching points of the game that can be transitioned to daily life as well.  Donnie won’t be the last player to leave Michigan, but hints there are fellow players like him who share common desires to prove themselves on the national level.

“My thoughts are they (other transfers) wanted the same thing as me, to gain exposure and become a better player and play on a national schedule,” Donnie had to say.  “And I won’t be surprised if more players transfer to prep schools in the future.”



One Response to “Cass Tech’s Donnie Tillman to Transfer to Findlay Prep”

  1. Kimberly Kane September 18, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Great article. I will be experiencing a few of these issues as well..

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