LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — On Wednesday night, former Michigan State basketball stars Xavier Tillman and Cassius Winston were selected in the second round of the NBA draft.
Tillman was selected first by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 35 pick, but it was quickly announced that pick was being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. That means Tillman will get to play alongside former Spartan teammate Jaren Jackson Jr., who was selected No. 4 overall by the Grizzlies in the 2018 NBA draft.
“I don’t remember if Jaren called us or if we called Jaren but we were on the phone within like twenty seconds of me getting picked,” Tillman said as he laughed. “Everybody was so excited. Just to be connected again and to know that Yanni (Tillman’s daughter Ayanna) gets to keep that relationship, and build that relationship, with Jaren and now my son, it’s great.”
Jackson Jr. was Tillman’s best man in his wedding in July of 2019 and their friendship actually began before stepping on the court together at MSU.
“Our relationship started the summer prior to that because we played AAU together and that’s where we met,” said Tillman. “That’s where we really built our relationship is through the road trips, and just playing together, and forming a relationship that way. When I committed to Michigan State we were both, obviously, crazy excited to play with each other again and now to have it be the third time is kind of ridiculous.”
The Grizzlies have an exciting young core that features last year’s No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant and the aforementioned Jackson Jr.
Winston had to wait a little longer than his former pick-and-roll partner Tillman, but was eventually selected No. 53 by the Oklahoma City Thunder in a pick that was also traded, this time to the Washington Wizards. On a Zoom call Thursday morning, Winston did admit he experienced an array of emotions waiting to hear his name.
“Just worried a little bit, excited,” said Winston. “You figure eventually one of these has to be mine. A little bummed out because you feel like you could have been picked earlier, and then when you get picked all of that goes out the window.”
Winston should have opportunities to see the floor fairly early in his career, as the Wizards finished with the nine-seed in the Eastern Conference.
The four-year point guard will play alongside All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal, former All-Star John Wall and this years No. 9 pick Deni Avdija and it’s something Winston is looking forward too.
“Both of them are very talented and both are very successful guards in the NBA,” said Winston. Both of them play hard and they’re trying to win so I’m excited to go there and learn as much as I can.”