By LARRY VAUGHT
Coach Mike Taylor has no problem calling 5-9 point guard Tyler Ulis the “star player” for Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights, Ill.).
“He is a special, special player,” Taylor said. “I had never seen him play before he enrolled at Marian. His dad asked me I if thought he could play varsity. I took him to a summer league game and within five minutes I knew he would be a varsity player. You just have to see him to appreciate how good he is.
“He does so many things well. He is so gifted and so, so creative. He is just a joy to watch. Every time you walk into the gym, you see something different from him that amazes you.”
The four-star prospect is scheduled to announce his college choice tonight before Marian’s home football game. He has narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Michigan State and Iowa. Marian Catholic will be coming to the McCracken County Festival of Hoops in western Kentucky to play Jan. 11, but Taylor noted that his team is also playing in showcase events in Michigan and Iowa.
While most players use a school assembly to announce their college choice, Taylor thought it would be unique for Ulis to make his pick at the football game.
“We talked a lot about doing this in the fall. I am glad he is sticking to that, too. I think it is the best thing for him,” Taylor, an assistant football coach, said. “He is not just so in love with the recruiting process that he wants continuous attention. He is comfortable getting it over with and getting on with his senior season.
“When his dad called and said they would like to do this Friday, I thought about what would be a good way. One of his backcourt mates (on the basketball) team plays football. I thought it would be a great atmosphere to do it this way instead of the more generic school assembly. It will be neat for him and our students. We are off to a 2-0 sart in football and have a tough opponent. We are dedicating the field to a head coach who retired last year after coaching 37 years. So this will be a good way to bring more fans to the stands.”
Taylor says fans of whatever school Ulis picks will “love” him also.
“In a world where a lot of athletes are playing basketball, he is a basketball player,” the Marian coach said. “Just pure and simple. That is what is refreshing about him. He just plays basketball the way you should.
“He works at it. He studies it. His court awareness and intelligence, not many at his age have what he has. He reads defenses. He reads individual players. He knows what to do and instinctively reacts to it. I can’t overstate how special a player he is to watch play.”
Don’t let his size fool you, either.
“When he was a freshman starting, he was 5-4. I have had him guard kids 6-7, and have not worried about it. He just knows how to play,” Taylor said. “People always tell me I am overstating it, but if he was 6-6 he would be the same player as (Kentucky freshman Andrew) Harrison. He has the same kind of skills. In basketball states that appreciate basketball, they forget size and watch the beauty of the game. That’s why fans will love Tyler.
“I know Calipari likes big guards, and everybody knows that. But the thing Tyler brings is that big guards can’t guard him. The people he played against this summer, I don’t think any big-name guards enjoyed guarding him. He makes life difficult for other players he plays against.”
Taylor only has one complaint about Ulis.
“He doesn’t shoot enough. He can shoot it, but he is so unselfish and is really happiest on the floor when he is delivering the ball to teammates,” Taylor said. “When he’s with guys that can finish in the air, can hit open 3’s … you get him on that type of team and getting 20 assists in a game is not outside the realm of possibility. He’s that good.”