Dec. 14, 2007
Columbia, Mo. -
By Stephanie Thiel, Media Relations Student-Assistant
Being able to provide energy and motivation for Missouri will be just one of sophomore, guard, J.T. Tiller's tasks this season. As the Tiger's take on a new look, with a much stronger defense, Tiller will be asked not only to provide strength opposite of the ball, but on the offensive end as well. After an impressive freshman season Tiller looks to impact the 2007-08 Tiger squad even more.
Adjusting to college ball came with a few struggles for Tiller. "It was a big leap because people at the college level are bigger, faster and stronger, so you have to step your game up to another level," said Tiller. "Mentally you have to be ready and focused."
Not only was he given the opportunity to grow as a player, but to mature as a person as well. Being away from home forced Tiller to take on some new responsibilities including enforcing his own bedtime. When asked the hardest transition to make from high school to college; Tiller answered emphatically, sleep. "The biggest transition has been to get some sleep," Tiller said. " When you're away from your parents you don't really have that authority trying to tell you when to do this and when to do that. You've got to do it on your own."
While most find a packed arena quite nerve-wrecking, Tiller isn't effected much with pre-game jitters and enjoys the atmosphere. "Before (games) you have those butterflies, you're anxious and excited. As soon as you break that first sweat it all goes away," said Tiller. Playing in front of a filled home crowd has been one of his pleasures. "I can't even explain it. Exciting. It just gets my juices flowing," Tiller said.
In his first season at Mizzou, Tiller averaged almost 14 minutes of playing time and 4.2 points per game. He participated in all 30 contests and was able to "provide excitement, hustle and energy," Tiller said of his role, for the Tigers. "I'm that spark. When we're going down, you want to jump start that engine again, get things rolling."
Ironically, the past summer was spent not on speed, but focused on "not going so fast," Tiller says with a smile. Although his speed can provide quite an advantage, Head Coach Mike Anderson
and the young guard concentrated on slowing his game down and getting a look at open shots.
After summer workouts, Tiller set a few goals for himself and the team this year. "Makes less mistakes than I did last year and grow," said Tiller. "Win more games making it to the tournament. I don't like sitting at home during spring break and having to watch other teams play." His hope to still be playing in late March, early April will help to motivate him through the somewhat lengthy basketball season.
Tiller also looks to his parents for motivation, knowing with their support he has been able to excel in basketball. "I see how I've been blessed with having both of my parents. I've seen what they've had to go through," Tiller said. "And for mom to actually be there and dad to actually be there and do the right thing and set the example for me and my brother."
In high school Tiller was an Academic All-American, describing it as an honor that he is the most proud of. Grades have never seemed to be a problem for Tiller, as he transitioned from high school to college classes almost flawlessly. His knowledge in the classroom has also been beneficial on the court. After his first year he's gained a new view on the sport. "I've learned to see things from a different aspect. Starting to see things how the coaches see things," Tiller said. "I'm starting to understand it more."
Tiller's passion for basketball only grows with each game. "The highlights, the unexpected events that happen," Tiller said are his favorite parts of basketball. "Dunks, good defense, close games, the second half." After a summer of hard work Tiller is ready to be a leader for the Tigers and see the results of his time spent on both ends of the court.