The curious case of Tyler Ulis

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Boy, have the tables turned for Marian Catholic’s Tyler Ulis.

It took quite some time for the dynamic 5-9 point guard to get a high-major to bite. Sure, they were sniffing around, but the offers were slow to come — and far and few between.

But with his sensational junior season this past winter – he led Marian Catholic to the best season in school history while averaging 24 points a game — a buzz began. Then he followed it up with a strong showing this past spring on the AAU circuit and college coaches, particularly those judging high-major coaches, were sold.

Many were finally able to look beyond his size and accept who Ulis was: a true point guard with vision, a unique feel for the position, competitiveness and a special ability to make his team and those around him better. They were able to witness what the Hoops Report described in this story back in 2011.

With a surplus of high-major programs to choose from, Ulis trimmed his list to seven in late May. Iowa, DePaul, Northwestern, Florida State, USC, Michigan State and Purdue made the initial cut.

However, his game, name and interest certainly hasn’t peaked. His father, James Ulis, would always express in our conversations how Tyler’s best basketball was clearly ahead of him still. Ulis continued to impress in the NBPA Top 100 exposure camp in June. His stock rose among national scouts, skyrocketing in the national rankings that were released prior to July.

Then Ulis averaged 19.8 points and 7.8 assists a game in the EYBL Finals at the Nike Peach Jam this past weekend. In a head-to-head matchup with the top-ranked point guard in the country and No. 2 player overall, Tyus Jones, Ulis scored 22 points and had 17 assists.

The buzz began on Friday. You know a buzz is stirring when you’re at another event and the conversation in the gym turns to what is happening 850 miles away. Then the constant flow of text messages from college coaches to the Hoops Report began to flow. Here is a sampling of a few of those …

“Your boy is going off!”

“He’s going nuts now!!!! Best player on the floor!”

“Gonna b great 4 year college player.”

“I love him Joe!”

“Wow did people miss the boat for a long time on this kid.”

“Your guy is putting on a show. LOL.”

“I could never get tired of watching Tyler Ulis play.”

“I didn’t know he was THIS good. He’s just killing it!”

With his play at the Peach Jam, the interest and notoriety went through the roof. Now he’s on the verge of being a consensus top 50 player in the country and probably higher.

“It’s just been crazy,” says James Ulis of the last 48 hours.

Between college coaches throwing out immediate offers and wondering, “Can we still get in?” to a blitz of requests from media members, the Ulis camp has been inundated with phone calls.

While James Ulis says it’s been exciting for his son and the family, the process has played out — at least partially — how they expected it to.

“We have just always said to Tyler that all he has to do is go out and play the way you play, continue to keep getting better and people will notice,” says James Ulis. “The EYBL has been a chance to show how good he can be. I remember not too long ago when people would ask whether or not he was even a Division I player. But, honestly — and we talked about it — we knew, or at least felt, people would still come after him after playing in the Peach Jam this year.”

A year ago — heck, even six months ago — Ulis wasn’t ranked in anyone’s top 100 players the country. Now they’re taking calls from USA Today, CBS Sports and sitting next to McDonald’s game representatives.

“Tyler never once complained or questioned anything when it came to the rankings,” says James. “He never paid attention to it.”

Now the question is this: How do you handle the recruitment going forward? It’s not often there is this late of a fury in recruiting AFTER a player has cut his list. The Ulis camp wanted to cut the list down to seven as they “believed in quality rather than quantity.” They wanted to hone in on a smaller list of schools and get to know those coaches and programs more closely.

Missouri, Memphis and Miami-Florida have all extended offers since Ulis’ play at the Peach Jam, while others are scurrying around to see if they have a shot.

The door is slightly open, says James Ulis. Tyler and the family will take it “one school at a time” during this barrage of added interest. But it would likely have to be a program and school Tyler Ulis had a previous interest in for them to give serious consideration to at this point.

“There could be interest from a school that maybe had piqued Tyler’s interest before,” says James of potential new looks. “If a school like that comes in now — one where Tyler had a previous interest in because of the school itself, the basketball program, the head coach, the style of play or any other factor — since he’s not committed, we might look at that. Tyler gets to do this one time.”

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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