It didn’t take long for the Phoenix Suns’ introductory news conference for its NBA Draft picks to turn its focus to Kentucky basketball.
While mentioning those people in attendance with each player, Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough finished up by jokingly mentioning second-round pick Tyler Ulis’ “other agent,” fellow former Wildcat Devin Booker.
Suns Coach Earl Watson said Booker had been lobbying for Ulis throughout the process, even sending texts to Watson all season telling him to watch his best friend’s UK games.
“I’m glad I don’t have to see that text anymore,” Watson said with a smile. “I watched Tyler play a lot.”
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Ulis, the 34th overall pick in the draft, did his own convincing during his pre-draft visit with the Suns.
“When he came into our workout here, size wasn’t even a factor,” Watson said. “He dominated the workout. He made plays.”
Watson, a 6-foot-1 point guard when he played in the NBA from 2001 to 2014, said Ulis makes up for his size with heart, “the most important thing.”
“You might talk about, ‘who can he guard?’ Well, who’s going to guard him? It goes both ways,” Watson said.
Later during the news conference, the conversation turned to the Suns’ roster now including five former UK guards — Booker, Ulis, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Archie Goodwin.
“There’s nobody doing it any better in college basketball … in terms of recruitment … player development,” McDonough said. “With Coach (John) Calipari and his staff, they’re well coached, they’re well prepared. … I don’t mean this as an infomercial for Kentucky, but they really have a good thing going.”
While Ulis acknowledged that he was disappointed that he fell to the second round, he was happy with where he landed.
“Being able to play with Devin again was worth the wait,” Ulis said.
The only problem is that Ulis said Booker isn’t likely to let him forget the part he played.
“We’re really close. Best friends,” Ulis said. “I have to hear for the rest of my life … he told me earlier that he’s going to keep telling me every day, ‘I’m the reason you’re in the NBA.’”