His face and grace remind you of Jamaal Wilkes, but his skeletal profile inspires thoughts of anorexia nervosa.
Meet Darren Tillis, the 6-foot-11, 209-pound first-round pick of the Boston Celtics.
With Red Auerbach's 23d annual free agent rookie camp under way, everyone's asking about the top pick. But after two days of double sessions, it's tough to tell whether Tillis is the real thing or another Clarence Glover/Norm Cook mistake.
The Celtics stunned New England when they picked the Cleveland State clothes tree this spring. Everyone from Al McGuire to Ralph Houk knew Boston was looking for backcourt help, but when it came the Celtics' turn to select, the best guards were gone. So Auerbach and Bill Fitch picked an unknown string bean off the shores of Lake Erie.
Answering the question, "Darren Who?", Fitch and Auerbach informed the faithful that Tillis was a steady shot blocker, rebounder and scorer who could play the Celtics' running game and maneuver under the hoop - like a taller version of Cedric Maxwell. They didn't talk much about rebounding.
Tillis averaged 10 rebounds and 13 points per game during his four-year career with Cleveland State, but good ole CS didn't play a Big Ten or even Big East schedule and Tillis hasn't had a chance to show what he can do against the meatmen and enforcers who patrol the NBA hardwoods.
The Dallas native hasn't rebounded well this week, but insists, "I love to mix it up and I look forward to showing how I can bang when the veterans get here. I think I'm strong for my size."
Auerbach and Fitch don't seem concerned about Tillis' weight or board strength.
"He's not gonna be a center, he's a forward," says Auerbach. "I'd rather see him keep his speed."
Adds Fitch, "He's strong enough. I liken him to Max. He's a small forward. No one ever says Dr. J is too light. Darren is very quick."
Ten of the 13 rookies in camp are listed as guards, which means that Ed Spriggs (6-9, 240) and Phil Collins (6-9, 220) are the only "big men" able to challenge Tillis underneath. Fitch admits, "Darren hasn't had a very tough camp. He won't until we get somebody here who's able to beat his body. But he hasn't disappointed us at all. He's shown us the same things we saw when we scouted him."
Tillis and Auerbach took a ride on Auerbach's golf cart Sunday afternoon. Tillis wanted to know what the Celtics expect of him. Auerbach told the rookie to keep running, put the ball on the floor and shoot more. They didn't talk contract, but Tillis' agent, Ron Grinkler (who also represents Maxwell), is due in town today or tomorrow and Tillis expects to be signed before the end of the week.
If Fitch's affection is proportional to the amount of verbal abuse he heaps upon an individual, then Tillis would be the frontrunner as Fitch's favorite thus far. "He's been on me and I hear it, but it's good for me," says the rookie.
"It's an honor to be a No. 1 pick," says Tillis. "It means I should work a little harder than anybody. If they're making that type of investment, I've got to earn it . . . I'm not taking anything for granted. I don't think I'm a cinch to make it, but if I play the way I can, I don't have any doubts about making it.
"I don't plan on coming in and setting the house on fire. My goal is to provide whatever the Celtics need to win a championship. They didn't win the championship last year, so they must need something, be it shooting, rebounding, speed or whatever."-
Owner Harry Mangurian, Auerbach and Fitch met with Kevin McHale's agent, John Sanequist, last night. McHale is signed through 1982-83 but could become a free agent next spring. The threat of a player's strike this fall might hinder talks, but last night's meeting was the first positive step toward keeping McHale in the fold - something Mangurian seems anxious to do . . . Rain forced yesterday's afternoon session inside . . . Trainer Ray Melchiorre says Maxwell is recuperating nicely from off-season knee problems . . . Free agent guard Russell (Boo) Bowers has been impressive but is suffering from a sprained right thumb. Fortunately, Bowers is lefthanded . . . Terry Henderson, brother of NBA guard Tom Henderson, is one of five free agents in camp . . . From the West comes the report that Charles Bradley and Cleveland's James Silas won the NBA arm-wrestling title. The championships will be shown on cable TV this fall.
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