If you follow the FIBA Europe youth tournaments every year one of the most enjoyable things in the process is to witness the progress some of the young prospects make from summer to summer.
One of the players who perfectly fit that profile is the forward of the French team - Kim Tillie.
The long 205cm forward wasn't on the French U16 team that won the gold in 2004. Two years ago he had already been selected to be part of the U18 team that won another gold medal, but his contribution was limited
In the championship two years ago he averaged only 14 mpg with 5.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg in low percentages from any field and no big contribution in other aspects.
|“||I was very soft when I came to college, and over there I learned to play tougher, because the game is very physical.||„|
Here in Riga his spot is more crucial. After five games he stands on 22.4 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg but now he also averages 1.8 spg and 1.0 bpg which he didn't show before.
His percentages though are still low and these are just a sign that Tillie is what scouts refer to as "raw".
There's still a lot of work to do on his game before he'll become a big time player, but his physical attributes and great feel for the game make him an intriguing prospect.
Tillie has a unique background. His father is one of the best volleyball players in the history of France while his mother was a volleyball star herself when she played for the Dutch national team.
But volleyball was never a big attraction to the kid, who found his heart in another sport.
"I never really had a big passion for volleyball. Basketball was more appealing to me," he shares with fibaeurope.com.
"I started to play when I was 11 and I guess it's the diversity and the fast pace of the game that got my attention."
Two years ago he moved to the University of Utah where he's playing the game and making a dream come true.
"I've always wanted to play college hoops, and the last two years for me at Utah were amazing. I really had a great time on and off the court," he says.
"They have great facilities over there, a beautiful gym and basically you get all the conditions you need to get better."
Tillie is aware of his progress and the work that is still ahead of him on the way to the top.
"I was very soft when I came to college, and over there I learned to play tougher, because the game is very physical.
"I lifted weights a lot, gained a lot of weight and improved physically in Utah," and that helps him show more presence on the court.
For now Tillie is somewhat of a tweener. He started his career as a power forward, and that's still most of what he's playing now, but he tells himself that his future is probably one position back at the small forward.
Until Tillie will pick up his offensive game, his focus is on different aspects of the game, which makes him a player with a lot of diversity.
"I like to take offensive rebounds and give my team another chance, or make a big block on defense and dive for a loose ball. These kind of things help a lot to get my team and myself motivated."
His team started the competition with three big wins but in the last two days suffered two aching defeats. Tillie is trying to analyze the reasons.
"We won ten games in a row in preparation and the first three games here, so we were on a long streak and played great, but after the rest day things changed.
"We beat Latvia in the preparations in a big margin and I guess we under estimated them, and we didn't play tough," he confesses.
This French generation, who has won so many titles and games in the youth level isn't used to lose and don't have the experience to handle a loss. For Tillie this is another reason for the big loss against Spain.
"We had a good practice in the morning and we felt good, but maybe the fact we beat Spain easily as well in the preparations hurt us again. Mentally we were really down after the loss to Latvia and didn't know how to recover."
Towards today's big game against Montenegro Tillie has hopes for a better future, and not only because those two teams didn't play each other in preparations.
"We have no other choice but to come out and play hard. We need to talk between ourselves, be ready and do the best we can to keep our chances as long as we have some."
After the championship Tillie will go back to Utah and have two more years of hard work to improve his game and find his position, but if there are any doubters out there, he plans to prove them wrong.
"I still have two more years and I plan to work as hard as I can. I know I still have a long way before me."