Basketball

MSU hoops recruit Xavier Tillman says he connected with Spartans

The Grand Rapids Christian big man is set to announce his college choice Sept. 30

Grand Rapids Christian big man Xavier Tillman

Grand Rapids Christian big man Xavier Tillman

Jaren Jackson Jr. gave Michigan State a class of one for 2017.

Tom Izzo’s team has four more spots available, and the Spartans are on the hunt to add more.

Grand Rapids Christian big man Xavier Tillman — an AAU teammate of Jackson’s — visited East Lansing last weekend and said this week on WQTX 92.1-FM in Lansing that he will announce his college choice next Friday. MSU, Purdue and Marquette reportedly are finalists for the 6-foot-8, 270-pound power forward/center.

The four-star Tillman called his official visit to MSU “amazing” and said coach Tom Izzo talked about the need to add more big men.

“I caught a bond with every single player, from Tum Tum (Nairn) all the way to Kenny (Goins). They’re all just great guys,” Tillman said on “The Spartan Beat” show. “And Coach Izzo laid out the outline of what he thought I could do.”

Tillman is ranked the No. 1 player in the state, in part because one of Jackson’s prep school teammates left.

Brian Bowen, who plays alongside Jackson at La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind., also has the Spartans high on his radar. The 6-7 wing from Saginaw also has offers from Michigan, Kentucky and Louisville, among others.

Shane Heirman, who coaches Bowen and Jackson at La Lumiere School, said the five-star Bowen spent this summer with Nike’s EYBL team that traveled to the Bahamas and played with that squad until school started.

“That all can kind of wear you down a bit,” Heirman said. “So, I think he’s kind of still just decompressing from the summer and just kind of regather himself, reorganize himself, and then look at the process again. I don’t think he’s in a hurry right now.”

The 6-10, 255-pound Jackson is a power forward/wing ranked No. 15 in the nation by Rivals.com, 26th by ESPN and 27th by 247Sports.com and Scout.com. He’s more of stretch-4 perimeter threat than Tillman, who said Izzo compared him to freshman Nick Ward as more of a low-block, near-the-basket player.

“I was so happy for Jaren to have committed to Michigan State,” Tillman said.

Izzo will have four scholarships available in 2017 after Jackson’s commitment.

MSU also is getting an official visit this weekend from 6-6 Nojel Eastern. The four-star, top-100 guard from Evanston, Ill., posted on Twitter that he will be in East Lansing for the MSU-Wisconsin game.

The Spartans will graduate Eron Harris, Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis III, Ben Carter and Matt Van Dyk after the upcoming season.

Izzo also received a 2018 commitment in August from Macomb Dakota High big man Thomas Kithier.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on  Apple and  Android devices!

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