GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Christian is already one of the top boys basketball teams in the area, winning seven of its first eight games.
The Eagles are about to get even better.
The wait is over and the highly-anticipated debut of transfers Xavier Tillman and James Beck II is about to take place.
“I think we’re all excited, and I’m excited for them, too,” Grand Rapids Christian boys basketball coach Mark Warners said. “We’ve played with them 30, 40 practices, and to see those guys go just as hard as everyone else and not be able to play in games, you feel for them a little bit, but they also make us a lot better and make everyone around them better.”
Tillman, a 6-foot-8 junior and one of the top recruits in the country, transferred to Grand Rapids Christian from Forest Hills Central. Beck, a 6-foot-7 junior, transferred from Ottawa Hills.
Tillman’s move garnered the most attention after two successful seasons as a Ranger.
Seven months ago, he announced that he wanted to transfer, however, a court battle ensued between his divorced parents. Tillman’s mother, Tanya Tillman-May, wanted her son to stay at Forest Hills Central, while his father, Roosevelt Tillman, was content with his son’s decision.
The court allowed Tillman to transfer, but per MHSAA rules, he had to sit out till Jan. 19.
That day arrived on Tuesday, and Tillman played in his first scrimmage against Covenant Christian Wednesday night.
The Eagles will travel to Caledonia Friday night in an O-K White Conference showdown.
“I just can’t wait now,” Tillman said. “We had a scrimmage today (Wednesday), and I’m pretty ready to play. The first couple games of the season were tough to watch, but after a while I just realized that I needed to cheer my team on.”
Tillman and Beck II have practiced with the team since November.
Warners said the only thing that will change is their presence in an official game.
“It is going to change what we see on game night,” he said. “We’ve only had eight games, so our guys are used to playing with these guys and having them play all together. Really the adjustments has been made on game nights when they’re not there.
“It’s kind of strange when they’re not there, so in a way it’s going to be really nice to have them because that’s what we’re used to doing.”
The size of the tandem is expected to help the Eagles, especially on the boards. Rebounding has been an inconsistent aspect for the team.
“We’ve really struggled rebounding the ball the first eight games,” Warners said. “We’ve gotten better, but it was hard for us. When you have 6-8 and 6-7 guys who are athletic around the rim, we’re going to get more rebounds. And I think we will be much more up-tempo.”
Tillman said he doesn’t know what to expect from his first game in a new uniform.
“I haven’t really thought about it, but it’s going to be crazy,” he said. “My mom is going to get tickets early and I’m sure it’s going to be packed. I think it will be pretty fun.”