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Coach says “Kentucky fans are in for a treat when they see” Tyler Ulis


Marian Catholic (Chicago) coach Mike Taylor thought everything about Tyler Ulis’ commitment ceremony to Kentucky Friday went well — including the school he picked over Michigan State and Iowa.

“I think he will work out great at Kentucky,” said Taylor Sunday. “Once he gets to campus, players are going to love to play with him. He is really creative.

“I am not sure he totally understands the great Kentucky basketball tradition. He doesn’t understand the complete history of Kentucky basketball, but the recent history is attractive to any kid. I think as the coaches lowered their eyes, they found a special player.”

The 5-9 Ulis is ranked No. 23 in the 2014 recruiting class by Sporting News. Scout.com has him No. 29. But Ulis showed his worth during the summer. He averaged 19.2 points and 6.8 assists at Nike’s EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam, including 22-point, 17-assist performance against top five prospect Tyus Jones, who countered with 24 points and seven assists.

Ulis always liked watching current NBA star Chris Paul play point guard and went to his camp last summer.

“He has started a relationship with him. He loves Chris,” Taylor said. “He came back and said if he had five more minutes playing one on one, he would have beat him. But you see a lot of the same things in their games. Never get in a hurry with the ball. Always in control of the ball. Kentucky fans are in for a treat when they see him.”

Ulis does not fit the size mold of one-and-done Calipari point guards. But there have been over 20 NBA players 5-9 or smaller and two — -3 Muggsy Bogues and 5-9 Nate Robinson were first-round draft picks. However, there has never been a 5-9 or smaller starting point guard on a national championship college team.

Taylor says not to worry.

“People will learn as they see him. His intelligence allows him to beat players to spots. Defensively, he knows where to be and how to beat people,” Taylor said. “There’s nothing wrong with cheating. Sometimes when you are short all along, you learn a lot of great ways to cheat on the basketball court, and they have served him well. He has played against bigger kids. He has played against big-name kids. He’s not vulnerable.

“I think he has impressed everyone who has seen him play. He challenges himself in every situation. A lot of people were just slow to get on him. I have been talking about him since he was a freshman. I knew how good he could be. It’s just funny how a lot of (recruiting) experts are afraid to take a risk because he’s 5-9.”

Taylor doesn’t think the spotlight at UK will overwhelm him, either.

“He stays in a nice circle of friends. He doesn’t see publicity,” Taylor said. “If he stays true to himself, he will be just fine and I think he will and will be good for his teammates. He has been a name player in Chicago. He’s used to a lot of eyes being on him.”

Those eyes include several other Chicago players that UK is also recruiting. Two of those players are 2014 centers Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander.

“He’s friends with them all and they all find ways to get together and play,” Taylor said. “If I was a kid, I would want to jump on board with him and play at Kentucky. Why wouldn’t you? And we are going to get him stronger and physically ready. But you open the gym door, and every day you’ll see a different play and pass from him. He can do what he needs to do.”

Ulis and Marian Catholic will be in western Kentucky Jan. 11 for the McCracken County Festival of Hoops.

“Tyler will get an early taste of fans in Kentucky and see how passionate they are, but it will also be a great introduction for fans to see him play,” Taylor said.

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  1. Larry Pup

    Welcome Tyler. Can’t wait to see you play for the Big Blue.

  2. Tom Hatton

    Looking forward to watching this young man play. I know he will be exciting to watch and a crowd favorite for the next 3 or 4 years.

  3. Joe Montgomery

    I live in California but would love to get to Rupp Arena to watch him play.

  4. Little Baron

    The more I hear the better I like him. I’d like to see him help on of thr Chicago area centers Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander choose UK.

    Time will tell, but if Calipari wants him, then he’s gotta be good. Without ever seeing him play, I believe he could have led last year’s team a much better season. A true PG, regardless of size, is the spark plug to Calopari’s teams

    BBN is excited to have Tyler!

  5. Blueman

    He is a playmaker, I think he will be a fantastic fit for our program.

  6. Michael

    As stuck as Cal is on long, tall guards, this kid must be the real Deal for coach to want him! I for one am excited about UK getting a true point guard who’s main task is to simply distribute the ball!

  7. stenson

    Monte Towe (sp) 5’5″ NC State 1974 played with David Thompson and 7’4″ Tom Burlison. I believe they were the shortest and tallest NCAA players that year.

  8. stenson

    I checked Monte Towe’s height and he was listed as 5’7″ and not 5’5″, the memory goes as you get older. But, a small point guard can lead a national championship team if both he and the team are talented enough and play together.

    1. King Ghidora

      I saw him play. 5’5″ is stretching it to be honest. He was very small. Still I believe the point was that he was the starting pg on the NC State championship team with Thompson and Burleson. He no doubt came in under the 5’9″ mark mentioned by Larry. That NC St. team was something else. Thompson was one of the best I’ve ever seen especially in college. They actually called him “Skywalker” in 1972 and maybe before. That’s interesting since Star Wars didn’t come out until 1977. The Wolfpack went undefeated (27-0) in 1972-73 but were ineligible for post season play due to infractions in the way they recruited Thompson. What’s weird is they never managed to be ranked #1 despite winning every game. UCLA had won 6 straight titles and was about to win their 7th that season. They were also undefeated that year and the year before. NC St. knocked them out of the 1974 tournament ending a string of 7 straight championships by Wooden’s pros. That was probably the best thing that ever happened to college basketball. Too bad UCLA managed to come back and win one more title beating the team that really deserved it (UK of course).

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