THE CHEAP SEATS with Steve Cameron: All’s not fair in love ... or basketball

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Sports aren’t always fair.

Like life, in fact.

There’s no question that Killian Tillie would agree with that first statement.

As for the second, he’s just fine.

Gonzaga’s junior forward has a well-off, loving family back in France. He can easily get a college degree and pretty much choose any profession that suits him.

Hopefully, at least.

He comes from a family of Olympians who starred on French national teams, and thus would be connected in the way young people all over the world might only wish to be.

Unfortunately, the work that Tillie hopes to do after his days at Gonzaga might now be far more difficult for him that it seemed a year ago.

Even nine days ago.

Killian desperately hoped to help lead Gonzaga into the Final Four this spring, and maybe even to a national championship.

After that, it would be on to the NBA, surely.

A versatile 6-foot-10 player who can defend, score the tough baskets and still step out to knock down 3-pointers?

He’d be a cinch.

TILLIE’S PLANS, at least the near-term dreams, are now in serious doubt.

After he dropped in a soft hook under pressure eight days ago against San Francisco, Killian landed awkwardly.

He was in pain immediately.

Just a day later he was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, a partial tear of the ligament on the bottom of his foot.

It’s an exceptionally painful condition, one that Zags Coach Mark Few suffered himself.

This was Tillie’s third major injury in less than a year, which is why you might claim — quite correctly — that sports isn’t fair.

In the blink of an eye, Tillie’s dreams of cutting down nets for Gonzaga and going on to play pro basketball at the very highest level have all become question marks.

After all, he was still being re-integrated into a powerhouse Zags lineup after eight weeks out following surgery on a broken ankle.

He missed Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 loss to Florida State in last year’s NCAA tournament with a hip injury — a game that easily could have gone the other way with Tillie available to spread the floor and prevent the Seminoles from packing the paint.

That hip thing was a lingering problem, and this tear in his foot is the same in one respect…

No one really knows how long it will take to heal.

NATURALLY, ZAGS fans are bemoaning the bad fortune that could rob a really good team of another terrific weapon.’

With Tillie healthy and having played his way both into shape and into the lineup, it would be hard to find a team that could match up with Gonzaga.

But that now has become almost wishful thinking.

Or the request for a miracle.

Few has tried to stay upbeat, at least publicly.

“If all goes well and the prayers are answered, we’ll get him back for the postseason,” Few said.

There are two problems involved here.

The first is that plantar fasciitis has no predetermined relief time.

Baseball star Albert Pujols was hampered by it, and somehow played through the discomfort, for nine years.

Basketball players naturally are going to feel the pain more acutely, since they are jumping and landing on the injured foot.

People who have suffered the condition say it’s like walking on needles, which doesn’t sound like something a player could endure and still be effective.

Then there’s the issue of Tillie’s rhythm within the Zags’ overall game. He was just starting to feel comfortable after those eight weeks out following the ankle injury.

EVEN IF Gonzaga’s crack medical team can get Tillie back on the court in time for the NCAA tournament, how effective could he possibly be?

The answer, I’m afraid, is…

Not very.

And finally, you have the very personal matter of Tillie’s dreams going forward.

NBA scouts are understandably nervous about players they deem “injury-prone,” and now Tillie certainly fits that category.

On the bright side, all three injuries have been different, and two of them have healed completely.

At least that’s what the public believes, and hopes to be true.

You would think some NBA team would still take a shot on a player with Tillie’s talent and versatility.

Yeah, maybe.

Killian Tillie’s real life still should be bright and filled with exciting things.

His future as a world-class basketball player, however, has now fallen into doubt.

Let’s hope this was just one very unlucky year.

Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns for The Press appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He also contributes the “Zags Tracker” package on Gonzaga basketball each Tuesday.

Facebook: Steve Cameron

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA


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