Ex-Cats

Phoenix selects Tyler Ulis with No. 34 pick in NBA Draft

Kentucky's Tyler Ulis (3) celebrates with teammates after an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M in the championship of the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Kentucky won 82-77 in overtime.
Kentucky's Tyler Ulis (3) celebrates with teammates after an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M in the championship of the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Kentucky won 82-77 in overtime. AP

The Phoenix Suns chose Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis with the 34th pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y.

If Ulis makes the Suns’ roster — second-round picks are guaranteed contracts — Phoenix would boast five former UK guards. Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin and Brandon Knight are all under contract with the Suns.

The 5-foot-9 point guard from Chicago was a consensus first-team All-American as a sophomore, the 21st player in school history to earn the distinction. He was the first Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year winner in school history.

Ahead of the draft, ESPN’s Chad Ford talked about Ulis’ height making it tough to predict where he’d be taken.

“Teams are all over the board on him just because of his size,” Ford said. “There’s not a lot of precedent for guys that size excelling in the NBA. And people point to Isaiah Thomas (of the Boston Celtics), but Isaiah Thomas is a good 30 pounds heavier than Ulis is, and he’s more of a scoring, super athletic, stocky guard. … He has elite court vision. He is possibly the best passing point guard in this draft.”

Ulis had his own take on knocks on his size.

“I don’t really think about what people say,” Ulis told NBA.com on June 21. “Everything’s always worked out well. I was this small at the high school level and it worked out. Obviously it worked out in college. And I feel like it’s going to keep working out. … I feel like if I was 6-1, 6-2 I’d be (picked) No. 1 or No. 2. But I’m not 6-1, 6-2. I’m 5-9. I got what I have, I love it, I feel like I’ve worked for what I got. I’m just going to keep playing.”

Ulis was the the second player in league history (Anthony Davis being the other) to win SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, and he was named the 2016 SEC Tournament MVP after averaging 24.0 points and 5.0 assists while leading UK to the championship.

He broke UK’s single-season assists mark with 246.

Reports of a hip injury that might require surgery had led to his drop in mock drafts ahead of Thursday night.

But Ulis disputed those rumors after a workout in Detroit on June 17.

“I’ve never had hip pain, my hips are fine. I just worked out two times and nothing bothered me, but I honestly don’t know what it was. My hips are fine.”

Dennis Varney: 859-231-3514, @ExCats

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