Killian Tillie’s health status has been a key factor throughout Gonzaga’s 2019 season. Josh Perkins’ shoulder was a major question for months leading up to the season.
Tillie spent most of the season on the sidelines, first with a stress fracture in his right ankle and then a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot. He returned for the WCC Tournament and his two-game, 27-minute performance was an encouraging sight for Gonzaga faithful at Orleans Arena.
“I feel good,” Tillie said. “I have about 10 days from the last game to the next game and that’s really helpful for my foot and feeling better and getting my conditioning back.”
Perkins, meanwhile, has had his surgically repaired right shoulder put to the test a couple of times, the latest coming in Gonzaga’s semifinal rout over Pepperdine in Las Vegas.
“I banged it up in the Pepperdine game so it’s a little sore now, but by Thursday it’ll be fine,” the senior point guard said. “I think I went up for a rebound and stretched it back to where it hasn’t gone yet so I probably have full range of motion now. It hurt, but I think I’m back to 100 percent with my arm.”
Perkins had a collision with backcourt mate Geno Crandall during the season in what he described as the first big test of his shoulder. Perkins estimated his right shoulder popped out of place 14 or 15 times in his first four years at Gonzaga before his surgery last April.
“Geno hit me a couple months ago, and I’m like ‘Oh, my shoulder is good.’ It for sure would have fallen out back then,” Perkins said. “I trust it.”
Perkins had the best season of his career, averaging 11 points and 6.5 assists. The All-WCC first-team selection is shooting 45 percent from the field, including 37 percent on 3-pointers. His 3.16 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks No. 7 nationally.
The top-seeded Zags (30-3) open the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Vivant Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. They face the winner of Tuesday’s Fairleigh Dickinson-Prairie View A&M matchup in Dayton, Ohio.
Tillie has played in 11 games, exactly one-third of the Zags’ 33 games. He logged 15 minutes against Pepperdine, scoring nine points on 3-of-3 3-point shooting and grabbing six rebounds. He had a couple of falls that drew worried gasps from the crowd, but the 6-foot-10 junior forward popped back to his feet.
Tillie hit another 3-pointer and scored five points in last Tuesday’s loss to Saint Mary’s. He’s “practiced a lot this week and I think he’s rarin’ to go,” coach Mark Few said.
“It was a tough road,” Tillie said, “but I’m there right now and I’m happy about it.”
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