Tillman, Jordan claim 2005 All-Metro honors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2005

A year ago, Marcus Tillman didn’t even start for Franklin County. But what a difference a year can make.

This time around, Tillman was the leading scorer for the Bulldogs, who made it all the way to the MHSAA Class 3A State Championship game before falling to Holly Springs.

And for his efforts in helping lead that team, Tillman is The Natchez Democrat All-Metro Player of the Year. Bulldogs head coach Chris Jordan is the All-Metro Coach of the Year.

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Jordan credits Tillman’s emergence as one of the major reasons for the Bulldogs’ success.

&uot;(Tillman) averaged maybe four or five points for us last year,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;He had one big game against Port Gibson, but that was about it. This year he scored double digits just about every game. His work ethic is tremendous. He wanted to get better, and he came in and did it. You get a lot of kids that are good, but you have to make them work. Marcus isn’t one of those.&uot;

Tillman, a 6-4, 240-pound monster down on the blocks, provided a substantial scoring punch in the paint for the Bulldogs to complement their guard trio of Jasper O’Quinn, Jonathan Brooks and DeAndrea Cameron.

Tillman’s generally a man of few words, but his play on the court does plenty of talking. His 27 points in the state semifinal game were the most a Franklin County player has ever scored in the playoffs, Jordan said.

&uot;Of course, I think 84 points is the most we’ve ever scored, at least since ’92,&uot; Jordan said.

Tillman credits his improvement to hard work and attention to his fundamentals.

&uot;I just came in wanting to play better, so I worked on my moves, worked on my shooting,&uot; Tillman said.

Perhaps the best illustration of Tillman’s improvement is his work at the free-throw line. He went from a 30-percent shooter a year ago to a 60-percent shooter this season.

Given the high number of free throws he takes for the Bulldogs, that change was a huge difference for him and for Franklin County.

Tillman is a highly regarded prospect as a defensive end for the football team, but he enjoys basketball for a very simple reason.

&uot;I get to score a lot,&uot; Tillman said.

On the football field, Tillman’s touches are infrequent at best. But on the court, Tillman gets the ball constantly.

Perhaps the best illustration of Tillman’s impact for the Bulldogs was the South State Tournament, where he played every minute for the Bulldogs as they won the South State title and advanced to the state tournament in Jackson.

&uot;We just weren’t very good when he wasn’t out there,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;He played four games in five days without getting subbed out once. He ought to be in fair condition after that.&uot;

But Tillman isn’t resting on his laurels. After basketball season ended, he went straight to track, where he throws the shotput and discus.

&uot;Yeah, I’m always playing one sport or another,&uot; Tillman said.

Tillman’s development is also no doubt a testament to Jordan’s coaching. The team has spent long summer practices in the Franklin County gym &045; which lacks air conditioning &045; working to get better.

&uot;We were in there once and the temperature was 95 outside,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;We only lasted about five minutes.&uot;

Jordan, meanwhile, has been the head basketball coach at Franklin County for 13 years and taught and coached junior high basketball and football for six years before that in Meadville.

He spent part of his childhood in Franklin County before the family moved to Baton Rouge. But during his time as a student at Southern Miss, he was a student teacher at Franklin County. After a couple years teaching in private schools, he joined the faculty at Franklin County.

Jordan laughed as he talked about his days as an assistant football coach.

&uot;Mostly I just drove the bus,&uot; Jordan joked. &uot;They let me call plays one season, and I remember I cost us a championship. I thought we had just scored so I called a two-point conversion play and that failed, too. But I enjoyed that time when we were out there. I just like the weather inside our gym better.&uot;

As rewarding as it was to go to the state tournament for the second time in his coaching career, Jordan is happy the season is over.

&uot;I get better rest now that the season is over,&uot; Jordan said.

But already Jordan and Tillman are looking ahead to next season. Jordan said he’s already mapped out the next step for his star player.

&uot;I want to get him out to 15 feet and try to do some things to move him around more,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;I have a feeling teams are going to guard him pretty close.&uot;