France: Tillis Relishes European Experience

07 January 2005
By Doug Booth, PA International

Egyptian goddesses are generally few and far between in the FIBA EuroLeague Women.

That's why it may have come as a big shock, in Detroit if nowhere else, to fans of forward Iciss Tillis that the WNBA rookie has been allowed to leave French giants US Sportive Valenciennes Olympic.

Egyptian goddess, you ask?

Well, when Tillis' parents, James and Melanie, were looking for names to call their daughter they both agreed the name Iciss sounded unusual ... and perfect.

In fact, her father was watching a popular US talk show called Almighty Iciss when he worked out Iciss was the name of an Egyptian goddess. So that's sorted.

But why would Valenciennes treat a player with such a high-profile name with such apparent contempt? Well, they didn't.

Tillis only signed a two-month contract with the club.

They wanted cover down the stretch for "Boba" - popular Serbia & Montenegro centrer Slobodanka Tuvic, who has missed almost half the season with a serious knee injury.

Tillis averaged 8.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 21 minutes a contest in the EuroLeague. She played in seven European games.

And why would her departure have been such a big shock in Detroit?

Well Tillis, who turned 23 on December 6 last year, played 31 WNBA matches for the Detroit Shock in her rookie season in 2004.

Two years ago, Detroit won the WNBA title. Last season the Seattle Storm took the honours.
Tillis is determined that by the end of 2005 she will have the first of several championship rings on her finger - and the experience gained in Europe will have been worthwhile.

 "I have loved my time at Valenciennes. They have a really good team and a great atmosphere at the club," said Tillis, who expects to make her mind up by the end of next week which club she will move to on another short-term deal.

She has already had preliminary offers from clubs in Spain, Hungary and Israel about continuing her inaugural foray into Europe until late March, when she will return to the US for the Shock's WNBA training camp.

Tillis, who played in seven EuroLeague Women games for Valenciennes scoring 60 points, including 18 against Wisla Can-Pack, at an average of 8.6ppg, is a graduate of Duke University.
Duke's men's programme has been one of the most dominant in the NCAA for two decades  and the women's team is now one of the best in the famed Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Duke website is justifiably proud of their former economics student.

"With her 6ft 5in frame, she has tremendous athleticism and shot blocking ability," it said.

"She can post up, hit the three-pointer and dunk - she could become the most versatile player to ever wear a Duke uniform."

High praise indeed but Tillis knows all too well that sporting success does not come without perseverance. She is honing her skills here, particularly on offence.

"I am working out every day, staying in shape," she said.

"I am trying to be more aggressive to the three-point line," she said.

Tillis loves the WNBA but has found the competition to be very good in Europe, too.

"Both competitions are pretty physical but I suppose in the WNBA, every game is tough - that's the biggest difference," said Tillis.

"In Europe, you might have an easy game one week, then the next one will be as tough as anything."

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