Boys Basketball: Marian Catholic’s Tyler Ulis SouthownStar 2012-13 Player of the Year
By Pat Disabato email@example.com March 20, 2013 9:12PM
Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:31AM
There isn’t much Tyler Ulis can’t do on a basketball court, as those who have had the pleasure to watch him can attest.
Well, at a generous 5-foot-10, maybe he can’t dunk.
Shoot, pass, dribble, defend, Ulis can perform those tasks at a level few others can match. Ulis averaged 21.9 points per game for Marian Catholic, converting 54 percent of his field-goal attempts and 84 percent of his free throws.
Though he was the Spartans’ primary scorer, Ulis didn’t let other parts of his game go unnoticed. He averaged 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game.
As a point guard often facing double-teams, he turned the ball over on average just twice a game. That isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s watched Ulis handle the ball. He’s a wizard in that regard.
It’s true that one player is not solely responsible for a team’s success. But it’s also undeniable that no one player had a greater impact on his team’s success than Ulis, the Beggars Pizza/SouthtownStar 2012-13 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“It’s been a goal of mine,” Ulis said of winning the SouthtownStar Player of the Year honor. “(Bloom’s) Donald Moore won it last year. With all of the great players in the area, winning this is a great honor.”
Coincidentally, “an honor” is precisely how Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor has described the experience of having Ulis as one of his players.
“It really is,” Taylor said. “I’m the lucky one. I get to watch a master at work every day. He truly is a master. He can do everything — scoring, passing, being a leader. How he handles the ball so fluidly and how he defends ... he’s so confident all of the time.”
Ulis guided the Spartans to a record-breaking season, establishing the most wins (29) in the program’s history, its first sectional championship and a date in the Class 4A Normal Supersectional.
A hot-shooting, experienced Edwardsville team put an end to Marian’s run in Normal. Still, it was an unforgettable season for the Spartans and their fans.
“I think it was a great year,” Ulis said. “It ended sooner than what we expected. But we beat a lot of very good teams.”
Among those teams was Chicago Heights neighbor Bloom, on two occasions: first in the Rich South McDipper championship, then in the Thornton Sectional title game.
Winning the McDipper was a special thrill for Ulis, who used to attend the holiday tournament as a young boy with his father.
“The McDipper championship was the highlight for me,” Ulis said. “I saw how exciting it was as a young kid. We weren’t expected to win it this year. It was good to prove everybody wrong.”
Ulis grew up in Lima, Ohio. His parents divorced, with his dad moving to Matteson 10 years ago.
When it came time to attend high school, James Ulis thought his son would be better served in Illinois. It was just a matter of which school his gifted son would attend.
The Ulises chose Marian Catholic, not exactly known as a basketball powerhouse.
“My father thought the competition was better in Illinois than Ohio and he wanted to pick a school that was best for me academically,” said Ulis, whose favorite meal is pancakes. “It was tough leaving my friends and my family. I trusted where my father wanted me to go.”
The most difficult part of the transition was leaving behind his mother and brother, Jaden, now 7.
“Whenever I get a break I go back home to Ohio,” Ulis said.
The scary part, especially for opponents, is that Ulis still has a year of high school remaining.
Colleges are showing major interest, with Iowa, Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan State, Oregon State and DePaul showing the most.
Some college programs are turned off by his 5-10 frame, which frustrates Taylor.
“People who doubt him, he proves them wrong all the time,” Taylor said. “He can guard a 6-2, 6-3 kid, no problem.”
Either way, Ulis hopes to make a decision about college during the summer, “after the AAU season.”
“I’ve heard the size thing my whole life. I can’t do anything about it,” Ulis said. “It’s going to come down to the school and coaching staff I feel most comfortable with.”