By LARRY VAUGHT
What do his Kentucky teammates think of point guard Tyler Ulis.
“On the court, he’s the little engine that makes us go. He’s like a little, mini coach out there,” said Alex Poythress after Ulis scored 21 points and had five assists in a 76-57 win over Vanderbilt Saturday.
Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said Ulis, the smallest player on the court, was the game’s dominant player.
“He has a great understanding of the game. He plays at a great pace. He doesn’t get sped up. He can make shots. He’s a great layup maker. He’s got good vision. He’s really got everything. He actually utilizes his size to his advantage. He creates advantages with his stature. That’s a unique skill,” Stallings said.
Poythress joked Ulis had been that size all his life, so being small is no problem. Stallings says Ulis has a variety of advantages because of his size.
“He’s able to change directions faster. He’s able to get guys out of position, get them off balance, and get his body on their body and create contact,” Stallings said. “He does a great job at getting to the foul line. He just understands how to take what he has and utilize it to its fullest advantage. That’s why he’s such a good player.”
Ulis said he has to use his quickness and basketball IQ and always has.
“I try to beat guys to spots, think a couple plays before and just try to do what I have to do to get by,” Ulis said.
Calipari, feeling a big swaggy after UK’s wins over Arkansas and Vanderbilt this week, had his own way of explaining Ulis’ tenacity.
“Everyone wants the corner office and the big car and the nice pay raise. But they just don’t want to have the responsibility every day, every possession, every moment that goes along with the corner office and the nice car and — well, when I was in that other thing and no one even knew me for a week, and I’d be all right, and I go out and I do it, and then every quarter I had to —well, yeah, when you’re in the corner office they want to know every day, every moment. That’s what’s hard,” Calipari said. “And like Tyler, he wants the corner office. That’s what he wants. He thrives in it.”
Ulis said the corner office suits him, and that mentality is part of his job as the team’s “general” this year.
“I have to help some of the younger guys out and just try to get the job done,” Ulis said after the win. “Guys are starting to step up. We got guys talking defensively. We got Alex stepping up like I said and Derek (Willis) as well. Guys are starting to fit into their role and understand what everybody needs to do for the team.”