By the time Tiffany Tullis was old enough to play, her household had already established itself as a basketball family.
Now Tullis is making her own mark on the hardwood.
The 6-foot forward from San Antonio, Texas, ranks among NJCAA Division I’s best rebounders to go with an impressive scoring game that has made her one of the premier players in junior college ball.
For Tullis, who began her collegiate journey at Division I Prairie View A&M University before transferring to Blinn College in 2021, her rise has been equal parts expected and surprising, but entirely influenced by a family that eats, sleeps, and breathes the game.
“Everyone in my family loves basketball,” said Tullis. “Growing up, my sisters and I played together, my dad played with us … my entire family was involved in the game somehow.”
While Tullis wouldn’t play competitive basketball until sixth grade, her family was deeply rooted in the game.
The Tullis family patriarch, Travis Tullis, played collegiately at South Georgia Technical College, a junior college in Americus, Ga. After starting a family, Travis Tullis raised three daughters who found their way onto the collegiate court: Trinity at Kilgore College; Tianna at Pratt Community College, Life University, and Texas Wesleyan University; and Tierra at Prairie View A&M University, Life University, and Talladega College. By the time Tiffany arrived on the scene, it was as if her future was predetermined.
“Watching my sisters play and have success made me want to play and have that same success,” she said. “We played as kids growing up and competed with each other but watching them play at the next level made me want to get there.”
To reach that next level, however, Tullis had to fine-tune her rebounding abilities. As she grew into her 6-foot frame during her junior and senior seasons at Cornerstone Christian Academy, she began perfecting her skills as a board protector.
“My oldest sister was shorter than me, but she was still a great rebounder,” Tullis said. “That made me want to be a great rebounder. She was fearless and would go up against anybody on the court, it didn’t matter how big or tall they were, and that’s how I wanted to play.”
(Pictured: Blinn College sophomore forward Tiffany Tullis splits a pair of McLennan defenders on her way to the basket on Dec. 5, 2022)
After her freshman season at Prairie View, Tullis followed best friend and Prairie View teammate Allana Thompson to Blinn. Although she only started five of the 31 games she appeared in last season, Tullis averaged a double-double with 11.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds. She was a key cog for a Buccaneer team that reached the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament, and for her efforts, she was named the Region XIV Newcomer of the Year and an all-region selection.
“There wasn’t any surprise on our end when she ended up being as good as she was in her first season,” Jenkins said. “We saw what she did at the Division I level, especially with her ability to rebound, and we knew that aspect of her game would translate to whichever level she played at. We knew coming here she’d be able to be a big part of what we were trying to do.”
Now a full-time starter, Tullis’ rebounding ability comes from what she described as a mix of anticipation and mental math. When a shot is released, Tullis says she makes a swift judgment call on the angle a misfired shot will take once it hits the rim. From there, she uses her strong frame to fend off her opponent for the rebound.
“It goes back to my oldest sister, Trinity,” Tullis said. “When she was taller than me, I had to get used to being the smaller player and battling. So now, if there is a girl on the court who’s 6’2″ or 6’3″, I’m not afraid to go up against her.”
Tullis’ toughness has resulted in 17 games this season in which she’s totaled 10 or more rebounds. Her season-high of 23 came during a victory over Temple on Nov. 10, 2022.
“You change the game when you rebound well,” says Tullis, whose 13.7 rebounds per game and 273 total boards this season are both fourth-best in NJCAA DI. “That’s always been a huge part of my game. I want to grab rebounds and give my team another chance or prevent our opponent from having another opportunity to score. You make an impact when you rebound.”
(Pictured: Blinn College sophomore forward Tiffany Tullis looks to shoot around two Angelina defenders on Jan. 25)
While her rebounding abilities could be enough to open doors at the next level, Tullis has rounded out her game with an equally effective scoring ability.
At 14.6 points per outing, Tullis leads the Buccaneers, who feature five players averaging double-digit scoring totals. Tullis scored a season-high 29 points in Blinn’s opener Nov. 2, 2022, and has scored 11 points or more in all but one game this season. She has 17 double-doubles.
“I worked on my offensive game during the summer,” Tullis said. “I played a lot of pick-up ball and played against a lot of male players, which made it tough for me to get to the rim at times, so I had to be able to score from mid-range or from the 3-point line. I focused on shooting and getting my shot right. If I could have a layup, a mid-range, and a deep shot, I felt like that would make me a better player as a whole.”
Tullis shoots 51% from the floor and 34% from beyond the arch. She’s also a reliable free-throw shooter at almost 71%. Tullis’ offensive growth has been a welcome development for Thompson, who says she’s grown to admire Tullis’ game.
“She can do pretty much everything on the court,” said Thompson. “We knew she could rebound, but now she’s scoring at will and it’s made her that much better. She can get a bucket down low or pull up at the 3-point line and knock one down. It makes it that much harder to guard her because she can hurt you anywhere.”
Where Tullis goes next is to be determined. The Buccaneers are in the midst of another fantastic season as they currently own a 19-1 record with a 7-0 conference mark. Tullis’ performance has her in conversations with Division I programs such as Old Dominion, Louisiana-Monroe, and Texas State. However, before she ends her time as a Buccaneer, Tullis hopes to leave behind a legacy in Brenham, Texas.
“I want to be remembered as the best rebounder the school and coach Jenkins has ever had,” Tullis said. “I want people to see my name and know that I made an impact here, and if that’s because I was a great rebounder, I’m good with that.”
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 42 NJCAA national championships since 1987.