Celtics Drafted Who?

June 30, 1982

Celtics Drafted Who?

Darren Tillis. Not Mel, not Quick. Darren.

If you have to ask "Who?" then you haven't been reading the Cleveland State box scores. (If you have been reading the Cleveland State box scores, the question is "Why?").

Darren Tillis, 22, Cleveland State's noted 6-foot-11, 200-pound forward, does not sing, stutter or box. He is a basketball player and he is the top Celtics draft choice for 1982. He would like to weigh more, but, of course, a skinny player is a hungry player.

"I'm going to try my best to make it (draft) a gem for Boston," said Tillis yesterday, speaking by telephone from his home in Dallas. "Most guys are taking the day off. I'm going down to the gym right now.

"I can't believe I'm going to be a Celtic after watching them all these years on television."

The Celtics say he is a good shot blocker, good rebounder, good shooter and good guy. They do not say he is a good eater.The Cleveland State statistics show that as a senior Tillis blocked 50 shots (in 27 games), averaged 12.8 rebounds and shot 52 percent in averaging 17.3 points. Cleveland State, it is not widely known, is a Division I school whose opponents included Louisville, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Oral Roberts and Penn State. Franklin Edwards, Philadelphia's top pick in 1981, came from Cleveland State.

So while Darren Tillis may be a stranger, he is no stranger to good basketball. The Celtics were impressed by his performance at the NBA instructional camp in Chicago. He also turned in strong efforts at the Seratoma game in Indianapolis - where he had seven blocked shots - and at the Aloha Classic in Honolulu.

"He's good at everything but not great at any one thing," said Celtics superscout and assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers. "He can shoot from 12-14 feet, although he's not a good free throw shooter, and I dont know why. But he's a good shooter from the field. He'll post up inside and shoot a turnaround or he'll face up and shoot it that way, too."

Tillis' weaknesses, said Rodgers, are "experience and the developmental process." Physically, Tillis is still maturing, having entered college as a 150-pound freshman. "I'm 210-211 now and I'd like to play at 210-215," said Tillis. "I think I'll hit 220-225 eventually."

Tillis was the power forward at Cleveland State, but the Celtics say he is quick enough to be a small forward in the NBA. "That's all right with me," said Tillis. "I like to put the ball on the floor and get up and down and I like to shoot it. Maybe I could play a little of both and give some relief to the big fellows.

"I know I'm going to be a role player, but I'm not content to sit. I'd like to play. I want to beat somebody out if I can."

There is some irony to the coincidence that Cedric Maxwell, the Celtics' small forward, is represented by Cincinnati attorney Ron Grinker, who also represents Tillis.

"If it doesn't bother Cedric it doesn't bother me," said Tillis.

Grinker compares Tillis physically to both Caldwell Jones and Richard Washington. "He has the most potential for growth of anybody taken in this draft," said Grinker. "He may be two years away from being great. And he has a marvelous attitude."

Ray Derringer, the Cleveland State coach, said Tillis is a team player who should fit in with the Celtics. "I was happy Darren didn't go to some team who expected him to be a savior," said Derringer. "Darren is not a savior. He's a piece of foundation. He's a builder. He's happy to be part of a team. That's why we had such a good situation here. We didn't have any stars."

Derringer shed some light on Tillis' attitude.

"Darren got an ankle sprain last season with about 10 games to play," said Derringer. "We wanted him to rest it. But our other forward - Mike Sweeney - was out with mono. Darren felt he had to play with Mike out so he played through the last 10 games at half-speed."

If Tillis is defensively undeveloped, said Derringer, it's because Cleveland State "plays pretty loose. It's maybe why we don't have more victories. We don't spend as much time on defense as maybe we should."

Tillis, who had a middle-class upbringing in Dallas, is single and 12 hours short of a history degree. Last summer he took courses and played basketball in England, but this summer he is staying in Dallas. "I'm going to be working out and playing basketball," he said.

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