Former Gonzaga Bulldogs big man Killian Tillie is likely the best shooting prospect among all players at his position in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Tillie, one of five finalists for the 2020 Karl Malone Award given to the best power forward in college basketball, recently caught up with HoopsHype to speak about what he can bring to the NBA.
This transcript has been minorly edited for clarity.
What have you been doing to prepare for the 2020 NBA Draft?
Killian Tillie: I can train at Gonzaga so that has been good for me. It was pretty interrupted at first. But it has gotten much better. We wear masks and there are rules. I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve had a lot of time off recently because of the pandemic, which was definitely a good thing for my body. I’ve been able to do a lot of weightlifting and strength conditioning for my legs in order to get ready for next season.
What have you told teams who are interested in drafting you this year?
KT: I can do a little bit of everything on the court, offensively and defensively. I play super hard, dive on the floor, do the little things. I came from a winning program. I’m going to want to win in the NBA, too, and I’m going to bring a winning mentality to a team. I’ve bounced back pretty quickly from injuries I’ve had. I have a lot of routines in place that I do every day in order to stay healthy and get healthy. I don’t think it will be a big problem in the future.
After such a remarkable career at Gonzaga, how were you able to reconcile with your final season being cut short?
KT: It was very tough. The reason I stayed for my last year was to win a national championship. We were on our way to do that and we had the team for it. But I have moved forward now and I try not to really think about it. I mostly think about the future. I know that it was time to go to the next level. I’m ready for that. I’m more focused on the NBA.
What were some of your favorite memories during your time playing college basketball?
KT: My first year, we went to the Final Four, that was a crazy memory. It was always fun to go to Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament. I’ve had a lot of success there in that gym. But every single game in The Kennel is crazy. That is definitely what I’m going to miss the most. The fans are great at every game.
Each year, you had a different role for your team. How would you explain what you were able to accomplish during each season?
KT: My first year, there were a bunch of great guys on our team so my role was to come in and try to play hard: dive on the ball, get rebounds, do all of the little things. That was the only way I was going to get on the floor. Then my sophomore year we had some guys like Zach Collins go to the NBA so there was more space for me. I was a starter and it was a pretty good year for me, kind of my breakout year. Then as a junior, it was different because I had a bunch of injuries. We also just had guys like Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura in front of me and when I came back midseason and we were already No. 1 in the country. Then last year, I was more of a leader. I took more shots. But we also had a lot of new guys coming in with transfers and freshmen so my role was to get everybody together in the same place because I had already been there for several years so I knew exactly what our coach wanted. I was just trying to help my guys focus on the same gameplan and it works pretty well when you have great guys on your team.
You had an excellent head coach at Gonzaga. What were some of the most important lessons you learned playing for Mark Few?
KT: He gave me confidence since day one, he believed in me. The way he talks about how I helped the team is really helping me. He told me to slow down, go at my pace, and that’s how I play the game. He and [our assistant coach] Tommy Lloyd helped me with my ballhandling because my first year I was a lot more impatient. But playing at my own pace, I made more plays and turned the ball over less often.
You managed to shoot over 40.0 percent from 3-point range all four years that you played college basketball. What is the biggest way that impacts your game?
KT: My shooting has helped me a lot. I worked on it during my first year because it wasn’t very good before then. It was average but now it’s pretty good. I’m confident. I take more shots. I am still trying to work on getting quicker on the release. But it’s definitely helped me because people have to guard me on the outside and that spaces the floor. That helps me drive more, too. We also ran a lot of pick-and-pop at Gonzaga. Our point guards were so great at finding me there and it has become one of my favorite shots.
This year has so many elite French prospects, including you as well as Killian Hayes, Theo Maledon and Abdoulaye N’Doye. What is your relationship like with these players?
KT: I played with Abdoulaye N’Doye on the national team when I was younger. I’m excited for him. He had a great season in France and hopefully, he can show a few teams what he can do in the NBA. I know Theo Maledon a little bit because I was at INSEP (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance) with him. You can tell that a lot of European players have definitely worked out in the league. There are so many players from Europe who are playing great. I was born and raised in France. I want to play for my country and wear the French jersey.
Do you have any favorite basketball players from France?
KT: I love Boris Diaw and I love the way he played. I loved his playmaking and he can shoot a little bit. He came to one of our games in Salt Lake City. I got to meet him and it was very fun. It was good to talk to him a little bit. My brother is definitely one of them, too. Then one of my favorite players not from France is Danillo Gallinari. I think I can play very similarly to him.
Your brother, Kim Tillie, recently signed a new contract to play in Japan. How has he been able to help you become a better player?
KT: I watch a lot of his games, almost all of them. When he came to college in the United States, that’s what made me want to go to college. He has just always been an inspiration and I take a lot from his game, every time I watch him. Every time I have a question about anything, he is there. He has helped a lot with my body and my skill. He has been through everything. He went through the Olympics, college, Euroleague. It is definitely helpful to have a brother like that.
What do you like to do when you are not playing basketball?
KT: I like to play beach volleyball a lot. I’ve played my whole life. My family is really into volleyball. It has actually helped with timing for my quick jump and for my touch. I would have loved to have seen where I’d have gotten if I kept playing volleyball. I think I probably could have been professional. I love to watch my other brother, who plays volleyball. My dad is coaching volleyball in Japan.