Vaught’s note: Krystal Dittus is a Kentuckian now living in Florida who has remained a die-hard UK basketball fan. She became a huge fan of Tyler Ulis — as did many of you — and I asked her to share her thoughts on the Kentucky guard.
By KRYSTAL DITTUS
What is it about Tyler Ulis that made so many of us in Big Blue Nation love him so? His outstanding play has been analyzed countless times in interviews hosted by Tom Leach, discussed on KSR by Matt Jones and Ryan Lemond, and Mark Buerger once said the “Sunday Morning Sports Talk” show should be renamed the “Praise Tyler Ulis Show.”
Even our most beloved UK sports writer, Larry Vaught, has continuously recounted how spectacular Tyler had been this year.
But to me, it was more than him becoming the UK record holder for most assists in a single season, second most in SEC History at 246 assists. More than SEC Defensive Player of the Year, SEC Player of the Year, and MVP of the SEC Tournament. It was more than his mind boggling assist to turnover ratio. It was more than his numerous 20 plus point games. So what is it?
When many of us think of Tyler, we recall him bleeding while being the Card killer. We think of him staring down guys a foot taller than him. We recall his spectacular passes and playing Horse with us. And although John Calipari says these guys aren’t machines, Tyler was close.
In a season where sometimes players disappeared, Tyler was always there giving it his all. Game after game he played with such brilliance, it became the norm. We could depend him each and every game, and he put this team on his shoulders all year.
But for me specifically, it will always be his inner grit, tenacity, competitiveness, effort, and heart. It will be those qualities that can’t be captured solely by a box score. He never quit on us and always left it all on the court. To me, that is all you can ever ask for from a player.
Shots might not be falling and guys may be bigger than you, but you can always give it your best effort and fight. Tyler always did that, every game he played. With him likely to go pro, all I can do now is remember how blessed we were to have him these two years. Whatever NBA team drafts him will be lucky to have him, just like we have been.
We say “once a Cat, always as Cat”, and those words definitely apply to Tyler. He will always be a part of Big Blue Nation and a part of my heart.