Former VCU basketball star asking for prayers after father dies from COVID-19

Coronavirus

Justin Tillman's mother remains in critical condition

(WRIC) — A former VCU basketball player’s parents were hospitalized with COVID-19, with one, unfortunately, passing away while the other remains in critical condition fighting for their life.

Justin Tillman, a former forward for VCU men’s basketball, shared his story with 8News. 

He says he is asking for prayers as he plans a funeral for his father and awaits anxiously for his mother to pull through.

Recalling how he found out about his father’s condition, Tillman says on March 18 he flew 17 hours from Israel, where he plays basketball, to Detroit to surprise his mother. When he got to the airport, however, his parents didn’t answer the phone.

Justin Tillman pictured with his father.

“He had a fever of 105, and he was brain dead,” Tillman said of his father’s condition at the time. 

Tillman’s father, 52-year-old John Tillman, and his mother, 55-year-old Angela Tillman, were in the hospital with COVID-19. Both were relying on ventilators to breathe.

Tillman says his father, who worked in a factory for decades to support his family, was his best friend. His dream was to see his son play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

“I’m still in shock; he is gone,” Tillman told 8News. “I can’t believe he is gone. I keep thinking he is going to walk through the door at any moment.”

Tillman’s father died on April 4. John Tillman leaves behind his wife, two children, and a grandson.

Justin Tillman pictured with his mother.

What hurts the most for Justin Tillman is the fact that he never got a chance to say goodbye. He last saw his father in December — still texting him, “Dad, I love you so much. I wish I could see you.”

“I just feel very, very numb about things,” he said. “I done cried so much the last three of four days. I feel like its kind of hard to cry.”

As for Tillman’s mother, she remains in critical condition as a result of the COVID-19 illness. It’s why Tillman told 8News he has to be strong for his family.

Forever a part of RamNation, where he wreaked havoc on the basketball court of the Stuart C. Siegel Center, players and fans are stepping up to help with funeral expenses.

As of Wednesday evening, donations to a GoFundMe account set up in his parent’s honor have surpassed more than $9,000.

“I just really appreciate all the prayers and all the people that are reaching out and taking the time to say a prayer for me,” Tillman said.

Justin Tillman told 8News he plans to live out his and his father’s dream of playing in the NBA.

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