UK Recruiting

Ulis a potential point man for future of Kentucky recruiting

Kentucky signee Tyler Ulis said his favorite NBA player is Chris Paul — the league's active assists leader. Ulis espouses a similar style and philosophy, looking to pass before he looks to score.
Kentucky signee Tyler Ulis said his favorite NBA player is Chris Paul — the league's active assists leader. Ulis espouses a similar style and philosophy, looking to pass before he looks to score.

The last person who needs any help bringing in top-flight basketball recruits is Kentucky Coach John Calipari.

Starting next season, he'll be able to showcase what could become one of the centerpieces of his recruiting pitch over the next few years.

Tyler Ulis is generally the lowest-ranked of UK's four signees for the Class of 2014, but the point guard could play a major role in the future of the program. And his commitment to the Cats has already paid dividends on the recruiting trail.

"I think this is one of the bigger pickups for John Calipari in recent years because I think he's a guy that's going to be around three or four years and can really bring some consistency to that position," said's Evan Daniels. "He's the type of player that these kids like to play with.

"The whole thing with him and Devin Booker — that's real. Devin Booker wants to play with Tyler Ulis because he knows that Tyler Ulis will get him the ball."

Daniels referenced Booker — another UK signee for next season — because of his ties to Ulis before either player committed to Kentucky.

The two recruits formed a friendship that was strengthened on the court during summer basketball camps and showcases. Ulis played the role of the pass-first point guard who kept his teammates happy, and Booker the part of the shoot-first player who filled up the box score.

When Ulis committed to UK last fall, he made it clear that he wanted Booker to join him. That's exactly what happened. It's a formula that is likely to repeat itself.

Daniels said that once top-notch recruits from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 watch Ulis run the show for the Wildcats, they'll see a player who would be beneficial to play alongside.

"Tyler can score," Daniels said, "but that's not his mentality. His mentality is to set up teammates and create opportunities for them. I think he's going to be able to do that at Kentucky. And when there are elite players around him, his game is going to get even better."

Ulis brought his game to Paducah last week and will be back in the region Saturday night for the Flyin' To The Hoop Invitational in Kettering, Ohio.

He dished out 10 assists in just 21/2 quarters of play in Paducah, and he talked with reporters afterward about his playing style and future at UK.

Every one of his answers came back to the same philosophy: Make sure you put your teammates in the right positions to succeed.

Ulis' favorite player — it should come as no surprise — is Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, the NBA's active leader in assists per game.

"I watch a lot of Chris Paul," he said. "I think he's the best point guard in the game right now. I just like how he gets his teammates involved. He doesn't force the issue or try to score too much. He makes everybody happy first and then if he has to score, that's what he does."

Ulis has the offensive chops to put up points when necessary. He understands that defenders will try to sag off of him, and he's developed a consistent three-point shot — with a range that stretches pretty deep — to keep them honest.

But he'd much rather be streaking toward the basket and finding the open man. "His vision is exceptional," Daniels said. "And he has such tremendous poise."

If Andrew and Aaron Harrison head to the NBA this spring, as many expect they will, Ulis will be the most likely candidate to be the starting point guard next season.

If the twins return, the more the merrier. "That would be great," Ulis said.

His height — 5-foot-9 at best — will make Ulis a major question mark for pro scouts. Daniels says his game should translate well to the college level and expects him to have immediate success at Kentucky. But there aren't too many guys at his size who are succeeding in the NBA.

So, most likely, UK fans will get to enjoy his game for three or four years.

And Calipari will be able to point his most-coveted prospects to a walking, talking, passing recruiting pitch unlike any he's ever had in Lexington.

"That's what you want out of your point guard," Daniels said. "You want him to be a quarterback, you want him to be a leader and you want guys to want to play with him.

"These guys — especially the kids who want to be one-and-dones — they want scoring opportunities and they want to be able to come in and showcase their talents. And if they know that they're going to play with a point guard that's going to get them the ball, it only helps."