SALT LAKE CITY — A young University of Utah basketball team got even younger Friday with news that junior forward Donnie Tillman will not play this coming season as he takes time off to be with his ailing mother.
Just a week after declaring he was taking his name out of the NBA draft, Tillman announced Friday that he will be taking this season off for personal reasons.
“It is with a heavy heart that I share with Utah fans than I will not be returning to the Utes this fall,” Tillman said in a prepared statement. “I have always respected and admired Utah’s commitment to academics, athletics and family. The Ute fans have always shown me unwavering support as well. I respect both the university and the fans more now for understanding my wanting to be with my mother at this time as her ongoing health issues continue. Coach (Larry) Krystkowiak believes in putting family first and cannot thank him enough for allowing me to follow in his lead.”
In a statement, Krystkowiak said, “Donnie has made an admirable decision to be near his mother as she battles with health issues. I wish he and his mother, Donna, nothing but the best and I would like to personally thank DT for his contributions to our program.”
Tillman is Utah’s top experienced player, having been a part-time starter the past two seasons, averaging 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 15 starts in 2018-19, while shooting 36.1 percent from 3-point range. He was selected as the Pac-12 “Sixth Man of the Year” in a vote of the league’s coaches.
This will mark the fourth straight year the Utes have lost four of their top six scorers from the previous season. Sedrick Barefield (16.8 ppg) and Parker Van Dyke (8.5 ppg) both graduated, while Jayce Johnson (7.1 ppg) transferred to Marquette for his senior season. Besides those three, the Utes also lost center Novak Topalovic to graduation and two players who would have been seniors, guard Charles Jones and Brandon Morley, have transferred.
The Utes will still have some experienced players back, but the top three are all sophomores. Timmy Allen started 26 games at forward last year while averaging 12.2 ppg and 5.1 rebounds, Both Gach started 14 games at point guard and averaged 7.7 ppg, while Riley Battin started 21 games at forward and averaged 6.4 ppg.
Utah’s roster for 2019-20 will include just one senior, forward Marc Reninger, who played in just 12 games over the past two seasons, and one junior, guard Alfonso Plummer, a JC transfer from Arizona Western. The Ute roster will include 10 freshmen, including redshirts Naseem Gaskin and Lahat Thioune and guard Rylan Jones, who earned Deseret News Mr. Basketball honors both his junior and senior seasons while playing for Olympus High.