Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
If there ever was any question that No. 1-ranked Pershing High should be considered a bona fide contender for the Class A state boys’ basketball championship, those doubts subsided the moment 6-7 junior forward Justin Tillman returned to the Doughboys’ lineup.
“This is a good situation for that young man,’’ Pershing first-year coach Wydell Henry said of Tillman, the Detroit Public School League Proud Strong Learner of the Week. “He doesn’t have any issues, he doesn’t complain, he plays hard all the time, and he always smiles. That young man is a quiet assassin.
“Except for playing in the first two games, a stress fracture in his foot held him out most of the season until the (PSL) playoffs. He’s showed that he’s the best junior in the state since he’s been back.”
Tillman, who says he has been playing basketball “since I was able to walk,” was at his best in the PSL championship game, delivering 17 points, clutch rebounding and a dominating defensive presence in Pershing’s 80-61 victory against Cass Tech.
“I’m all the way back,’’ said Tillman, referring to his recovery from what he termed a fractured ankle. “It took about six weeks to heal. I’m glad to be back out here in time to help my team.”
The Doughboys managed to keep their unbeaten record intact until a 93-91 loss to eventual state champion Romulus ended their season in the Class A quarterfinals.
Tillman, who along with junior guard Darsean Woodson is expected to lead Pershing next year, looks forward to contributing a full and healthy season of “getting rebounds, blocking shots, getting the ball in the post and scoring,” he said.
Already a major force in the paint, Tillman “has a tremendous upside,’’ Henry said. “We’re trying to develop a little more for him to play on the wing because he’s got such a great (shooting) touch. He has stuff he hasn’t showed yet. He’s a great ballplayer at the three (small forward) or the four (power forward). Everybody is high on him. He has a lot of energy and a very high motor.”
At age 17, Tillman says he is still growing. “I’ve grown two inches every year,’’ he said. “My goal is to make it to the NBA and get paid for what I do.”
As one of the nation’s top high school juniors, he’s drawing interest from major colleges but hasn’t decided where he’ll attend. He plans to be an engineer if his pursuit of a basketball career doesn’t work out.
“I’m still working on my game and I’m still getting better,’’ he said. “Mainly, I’m building up my perimeter game and getting ready to play at the next level. Right now, I’m just looking forward to being a senior and taking over and leading our team next year.”
The Detroit Public School League Proud Strong Learner of the Week award is representative of the league’s top boys and girls athletes. The award is presented by the DPS Office of Athletics and sponsored for the third year in a row by Detroit-area McDonald’s owner-operators