By LARRY VAUGHT
First, a big hand to Courier-Journal beat writer Kyle Tucker. It seemed like he asked every coach on the SEC coaches teleconference today what they thought about UK sophomore guard Tyler Ulis being the SEC Player of the Year.
It’s easy to consider it a two-player race between Ulis and LSU freshman Ben Simmons, the likely No. 1 draft pick in June.
Or at least it’s easy for everyone except Arkansas coach Mike Anderson.
“I think he’s doing a good job of commanding their team. He’s quietly had a pretty good year,” Anderson said.
Pretty good year? He must be talking to Dan Dakich.
“I’m sure he’ll be one of those guys that are mentioned. But we’ve got some pretty talented players in our league. I think he will be one of those guys that will be considered,” Anderson said.
Other coaches, including UK’s John Calipari, were a lot more generous with their praise.
“When you talk about what he’s been able to do for us and what he’s done in these games, it’s incredible. And let me say: He’s got numbers that you don’t see but every five to 10 years,” Calipari said.
“Second thing I would tell you: He’s getting better. He’s better now than he was a month ago. Not only is he better, he’s shooting the ball better, his efficiencies have gone way up. I told him before South Carolina: it’s a 15-assist game because of how they play – they collapse. Well, he got 12 assists, yet he still scored. He defends.”
Of course, Calipari got ejected early from that game — he said he was not allowed by league rules to discuss officiating — and he couldn’t resist a friendly poke at assistant coach Kenny Payne who used Ulis for 38 minutes.
“ I looked at the stat sheet, he played 38 minutes. I go, ‘You guys (on the coaching staff) are on me the whole game to get him out, to sub him, yet now you coach the game and you’re up 30 and he plays 38 minutes! How about you sub him?’” Calipari said.
“You don’t want him off the court. He laughed. I told him (Ulis), ‘Why’d you let them leave you in?’ He just smiled. He’s a great kid, and now I’m just looking for him to continue to grow. Where can we take this thing? How much better can you get on both sides of the ball.”
More with other coaches on Ulis later after I go back and listen to the whole teleconference replay. But again, kudos to Kyle Tucker for asking 12 coaches about Ulis — and setting a one-day SEC teleconference record for most questions by one media member.