by Ray Kuhn
Let’s just get it out of the way at the beginning, Tyler Ulis is small. It’s not just basketball small, it’s life small. However even though he checks in at 5’9’ and weighs 160 pounds, Ulis plays a lot bigger than he measures. That is why the former Kentucky point guard is on the cusp of being a lottery selection in this June’s draft and at the very least will be a first round selection.
We know all about the roster turnover in the college game, and there are few schools where it is more of a revolving door than at Kentucky. While there were players with a larger profile and more fanfare playing for the Wildcats over the past two seasons, Ulis was the backbone of the team. That is what sets him apart from the majority of the players who will be drafted. While he is also an underclassman, he is entering the draft after his sophomore season so you know what are getting with him.
Not only does he produce on the stat sheet, but he also comes with the intangibles you look for from a point guard. After all, how else do you lead a talented team filled with freshman deep into the NCAA tournament, win the SEC Player of the Year award and finish as a first team All-American last season?
Ulis entered Kentucky as a five-star recruit and lived up to those expectations. I wouldn’t hold it against him that he came off the bench in his freshman season as the Harrison twins were still entrenched as the starters. Coming off the bench Ulis still managed to average close to 24 minutes per game scoring 5.6 points with 3.8 assists as Kentucky was unbeaten prior to losing in the Final Four.
This season things were vastly different. Kentucky was not as talented and the freshman did not live up to expectations, but Ulis still managed to lead the Wildcats to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. In Kentucky’s biggest games late in the season he continuously stepped up, scoring a career high 30 points in the SEC title game.
For the season he scored 17.3 points per game while also averaging seven assists, but that was not his biggest contribution. You must take John Calipari’s praise with a grain of salt, but there is also a great deal of truth to it:
“I’ve coached a lot of great leaders and great point guards in all my years of coaching. Tyler Ulis is the best floor general that I’ve ever coached,” Calipari said. “What I loved is he grew into that position. You couldn’t speed him up and you couldn’t slow him down unless he wanted to do one of those things. He coached the team this season as much as I did, and I’m proud to say that.”
While Ulis’ contributions in the box score are very much worth noting, his true value is as a floor general. He did make vast strides as a shooter last season, which also factors into his value at the next level. Ulis doesn’t turn the ball over much, and this statement from Sam Vecenie’s scouting report (click here for the full article) sums up his value:
“He’s a true leader, and he’s one of the guys anybody would love to go to war with on the basketball floor.”
Ulis will likely not be a perennial All-Star or put up prolific stat totals each night in the NBA, but he has the skill set to be a solid contributor for the next 10 years.
Make sure to check out all of our Team Top 10 Prospect Lists: