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Grand Rapids native Xavier Tillman reflective as playoffs begin

Tillman missed 29 games with injury this season, along with missing a few on parental leave following the birth of his third child.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While growing up in Grand Rapids, Memphis Grizzlies' forward Xavier Tillman Sr. used to dream of days like this, playing for one of the best teams in the NBA on a quest to win a championship. 

Tillman's dream has become a reality. The Grizzlies are the second seed in the Western Conference and have the second-best record in the association. Now, this young group is playing host to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the playoffs.  

Tillman says he reflects on his path to the NBA from time to time. 

"I probably think about my journey every day," Tillman said. "Every day, or at least, when I'm talking to my friends from back home like Dwayne, or JB, or Seth, you know, just reminiscing on those days on how we came up. How everybody [at the gym said] the dream was to make it to the NBA." 

Tillman says the team's hard work is paying off. At the same time, they’re focused on continuing to get better. 

"It's kind of like a two-fold type deal," Tillman said. "So, like, obviously, we're excited to be in the second spot and second seat and to own that spot, and to really have our wins to mean something."  

Tillman added, "But at the same time, the validation from everybody else is not really necessary for us. We don't really care too much about that because that doesn't help us win the game. [It] doesn't help us lose the game. So, you know, we're just focused on winning." 

Playing with the Grizzlies for his second season, Tillman's stats have dipped from his rookie year, mainly due to getting less playing time.  

Tillman has missed 29 games due to injury, and he missed a few games as he was on parental leave welcoming his third child.  

The Grand Rapids native is averaging 4.8 points per game. Tillman did not play when the Grizzlies played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday and lost 130-117, but says he is staying ready to help his team any way he can. 

Young kids across West Michigan have a hometown hero to look up to in Tillman. He says his advice to the younger generation is knowing that you must put the work in to achieve your dreams. 

"It's a grind, it's not instant gratification, it's a grind," Tillman said.  "Day in and day out, you got to be willing to sacrifice minutes. You got to be willing to sacrifice going out.  

Tillman added, "You got to be willing to sacrifice being with your family to really achieve this goal of playing at the highest level. So, it's definitely a grind for sure."

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