MSU's Xavier Tillman set for reunion in Memphis, Cassius Winston going to Washington
Xavier Tillman and Jaren Jackson Jr. are back together again. Cassius Winston is headed to the nation’s capital.
The night began with the hope of two former Michigan State stars being taken in the first round of the NBA Draft, and while neither Tillman nor Winston went in the first 30 picks on Wednesday, each ended up in a prime position.
Tillman was selected No. 35 overall by Sacramento, a pick the Kings had agreed to ship to the Memphis Grizzlies. Winston, meanwhile, had to wait a bit longer, getting drafted No. 53 overall by Oklahoma City, a pick that was set to be sent to the Wizards.
The fact Tillman ended up in Memphis created a reunion with Jackson. The duo made up Michigan State’s 2017 recruiting class as they combined to win a Big Ten championship in their only season together as Jackson went on to become the No. 4 overall pick of the 2018 draft.
“A mature player who knows how to play,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said of Tillman. “One of the best pick and roll defenders in the country.”
After being named Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore, helping lead the Spartans to a second straight Big Ten title and a spot in the Final Four, Tillman returned for his junior season as one of the top big men in the conference. He was named second-team All-Big Ten while also earning conference defensive player of the year honors.
The Grand Rapids native averaged 8.7 points and 6.6 rebounds a game over three seasons, scoring 13.7 a game and pulling down 10.3 rebounds as a senior. His 153 blocked shots are a Michigan State career record.
Winston, who came to Michigan State as part of a star-studded class that included Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford, was named Mr. Basketball as a senior at Detroit Jesuit and slowly became one of the best point guards in the nation in his four seasons at Michigan State. His 890 assists are the most in Big Ten history, surpassing former Spartan Mateen Cleaves.
“Masterful in the screen and roll,” Bilas said of Winston. “A special player and he’s a clutch player, as well. Very crafty with the ball but can also shoot it and shoot it from deep.”
The Big Ten Player of the Year as a junior, Winston averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 39.8% from 3-point range. As a senior, Winston scored 18.6 points a game while handing out 5.9 assists, improving his 3-point percentage to 43.2%. While he did not win a second straight player of the year award, Winston did earn first-team All-Big Ten honors for a second straight season while also being named a consensus second-team All-American two years in a row.
Winston is one of only two players in Michigan State history to be a consensus All-American in more than one season, joining Cleaves, who was second-team in 1998 and first-team in both 1999 and 2000.