Freshman Introduction: Justin Tillman

TillmanVCU will have four completely new faces this season, five if you include redshirt freshman Antravious Simmons who will make his first on-court appearance this year. One of those four comes in the form of a 6’8 power forward from the Motor City, Justin Tillman, of Detroit’s Pershing High School.

Tillman was an All-State selection and a finalist for Michigan’s Mr. Basketball award his senior season thanks to games like his 40-point, 18-rebound, 10-block triple double against Ann Arbor Huron. He committed to VCU just after his junior season where the rising star averaged 21.3 points to help boost his stock among D1 college coaches.

There are stats and stories all over the internet that will describe Tillman but we decided the best way to truly get to know the incoming freshman was to interview one of his closest associates: his trash-talking videographer, “valet” and cousin…Tad Gordon.

Tad is responsible for the majority of the highlight footage that has had Ram fans drooling over the prospect since hitting the Ram Nation radars. His commentary is legendary and while may be inappropriate for minors will also be highly entertaining for adults.

We sent Tad a few questions to help Ram fans know what’s coming to VCU this upcoming season.

VRN: First can you introduce yourself to Ram Nation and describe your relationship to Justin?

Tad: I’m Justin’s cousin, videographer, valet, I wear many hats (lol)… (Thaddeus Darrin Gordon III aka Uncle Buck). His dad and my mom are brother and sister. His dad is about 5 months older than me. When his father moved to Detroit after playing high school basketball in Philadelphia we started our hoop relationship around the city of Detroit. He went to the University of Detroit to walk on and I went to Concordia University to play basketball after playing sports in the Army overseas for a couple of years. Through the years we played together all through the Detroit area.

VRN: What was it that made VCU stick out to Justin?

Tad: Shaka and his coaching staff made VCU stick out more than other colleges. Their genuine personalities and realness locked us (Justin, Dad, & me) in with VCU from the beginning.

VRN: What do you think is the biggest thing he brings to VCU?

Tad: The biggest thing he brings to VCU is his uncanny athleticism and his highly coachable demeanor as far as basketball. As a person, he brings a beautiful personality that you all will get to enjoy.

VRN: What type of roll do you see for him as a freshmen?

Tad: As a freshman, I believe his role will be of a defensive perspective which would include rebounding at a high level, blocking shots, and guarding multiple players. He is an offensive player’s nightmare.

VRN: What are his strengths?

Tad: Justin strengths are his Maybach-like motor, natural athleticism, ability to block and alter shots, can play and defend multiple positions when need be, will to score buckets, and highly coachable personality.

VRN: What’s Justin like off the court?

Tad: Off the court Justin is a funny and a cool person to hang around with. He loves collecting gym shoes. If there is a gym shoe convention in town he will be there. He likes to hang with his family and friends, going to the movies and getting something to eat.

VRN: Do you have a “best memory” of Justin?

Tad: Best memory of Justin is soooo hard to think of because there are soooo many. I could use the time I saw him play for the first time and I walked in the gym and he reversed dunked with a fractured toe on a 6’8″ kid, but I’ll talk about the time when I was recording his game and yelling out instructions for him to block a shot and dunk on an individual. I knew he couldn’t hear me in the noisy gym as I was giving motivating commentary in the camera but as I was yelling he was doing what I was saying, and the gym went bananas. After he saw the clip, Justin was like, “Wow, I was doing exactly what you were saying.” We couldn’t do anything but laugh.

VRN: Do you have any funny stories of Justin?

Tad: A story that cracks me up about him that I tell others would be the time he was doing strength and conditioning training at Barwis Methods. One of the guys who trained Justin (wanted to) run against him in a series of four 400 meter races one day because he saw how Justin was smoking everyone that was training with him. As I sat and observed in the lounge area, I was thinking, “This is going to be interesting” because John was the most in shape young trainer that they had, who was killing everyone in fitness. So, they line up and start running the first race. John starts outs in the lead building his pace while (Justin) starts with a light jog in a series of down and backs. After the second lap (Justin) had hawked John down and was challenging for the lead. By the time they were in the third lap, John was giving everything he had to regain the lead while Justin was giving him dust to the end of that race. So, I’m looking and laughing on the inside while thinking “poor John”. Now they are ready to start again and (Justin) takes the lead from the beginning and just smokes John to the end of the race. He smoked him so bad that race Justin had a chance to grab a drink of water while John had to do his down and back. By the time they got to the fourth race John couldn’t even run it because he was so winded. So when (Justin) came to the lounge area and we were getting ready to leave, I told him “You’re slow as hell”. Then we laughed all the way home about it.

Samuel L Jackson as Mr. Glass in the 2000 superhero drama, "Unbreakable".
Samuel L Jackson as Mr. Glass in the 2000 superhero drama, “Unbreakable”.

VRN: Does Justin have a nickname?

Tad: I used to call him “Bones” in his early high school days but I think we need to go with “Mr. Glass” for the obvious reasons. Shot blocking and the resemblance of Samuel Jackson with the hair.

VRN: What’s the most underrated part of his game?

Tad: The most underrated part of his game is his ball handling ability. In high school his coach tried to have him play the traditional post game. Rebound, pass the ball to the guards mentality. Therefore he had to make a conscious effort to push the ball because he was playing in a restrictive offensive system.


A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...