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Junior Utah Men’s Basketball Player Donnie Tillman to take leave of absence from basketball

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NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

A major bombshell dropped today for the Utah basketball team, as Donnie Tillman, the junior-to-be, and one of the presumptive leaders of the team this next year, is stepping away from basketball to be with his ill mother. As someone that has lost a mother, I fully understand where Tillman is coming from with wanting to be with her through any issues. That needs to be priority No. 1 for the young man, and I’m happy he’s doing just that.

As shared in the statement and the press release below, some of the wording from Coach K leads me to believe that perhaps Tillman may not be coming back to Utah. If that ends up being his prerogative, then more power to him, but the wording stood out to me. Coach K thanked Tillman for his “contributions to the program,” and the MUSS tweeted out a thank you Donnie message.

Tillman had an up and down sophomore season, and was primed to be the primary offensive weapon for the Utes this coming season, and after pulling his name from the NBA draft, it seemed like he was priming for a big season. Perhaps we see Tillman back at Utah, which I hope we do, because that means his mom is better, but it sounds like Coach K and staff are moving forward with the assumption that Tillman isn’t coming back.

Here’s the full release from the Utah SID, and I wish Donnie and his family the best of luck through these turbulent waters.

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah junior men’s basketball player Donnie Tillman is taking a leave of absence from school due to personal reasons and will not be a member of the Runnin’ Utes basketball team in 2019-20.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share with Utah fans that I will not be returning to the Utes this fall,” Tillman said. “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 Krystkowiak believes in putting family first and I cannot thank him enough for allowing me to follow in his lead.”

Tillman played in 58 games for the Utes through his first two seasons with the team. He averaged a career-high 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this past 2018-19 season, which eventually led to his being named the Pac-12 Conference Sixth Man of the Year.

“Donnie has made an admirable decision to be near his mother as she battles health issues,” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “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.”