Marian Catholic’s Ulis prepared to show national scouts his stuff
BY PATRICK Z. MCGAVIN For Sun-Times Media April 7, 2013 9:26PM
Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis (right) shoots over Brother Rice's Cal Kennedy (left). | John Smierciak~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 9, 2013 6:31AM
On a March night in Normal, minutes after Tyler Ulis and Marian Catholic lost to Edwardsville 68-49 in a Class 4A supersectional, Ulis exchanged looks with coach Mike Taylor.
‘‘The teams that gave us problems this year were teams with length like Edwardsville,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘Immediately after the game, Tyler said to me that we were too passive against them and that instead of trying to go right at them, we tried to go around them.’’
The disappointing loss ended an otherwise-stellar season for Ulis and the Spartans. The 5-foot-8 junior point guard led Marian Catholic to a school-record 29 victories, the first sectional title in school history and the championship of the prestigious McDipper tournament at Rich South. Ulis averaged 22 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals for the season and was named the Most Valuable Player of the East Suburban Catholic.
After solidifying his status as the third-best prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2014 — behind Young’s 6-11 Jahlil Okafor and Curie’s 6-9 Cliff Alexander — Ulis now turns his attention to the national scene with the start of the travel circuit.
DePaul and Iowa are just two of the major programs to have offered him a scholarship. Michigan State, Florida State and Oregon State are interested, too. Playing with MeanStreets, the south suburban powerhouse club program founded by former Thornton star and NFL wide receiver Tai Streets, Ulis is ready to showcase his skills nationally.
‘‘I’ve always had a lot of confidence about my game, and I feel pretty good of where I stand (nationally) because when I’ve gone up against the top guards in the past, I’ve done pretty well for
myself,’’ said Ulis, who played his first club event this weekend at a tournament in Milwaukee.
With high-profile appearances at the Boo Williams tournament in Hampton, Va., and the Peach Jam in Augusta, Ga., Ulis is perfectly positioned to distinguish himself for the national scouts. The 2014 point guard class is loaded, led by Emmanuel Mudiay of Dallas and Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, Minn., who are recognized as the second- and third-best prospects — behind Okafor — in the Class of 2014.
Ulis is ranked No. 69 in the national class by Rivals. He isn’t listed among the top 100 by Scout.
‘‘He’s somebody I’m really interested in seeing (this spring),’’ said Evan Daniels, the national scouting director for Scout.
Daniels withheld judgment on Ulis’ game because he said he hasn’t seen him play in the last year.
‘‘The big thing with him, because of his size, is whether or not he was going to get bigger and become a better shooter,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘I’ve heard from college coaches that he has improved greatly as a shooter.’’
Ulis said he knows where he needs to improve.
‘‘I know that I have to get bigger and stronger, but I’m definitely ready and excited about playing in these big tournaments,’’ he said.
Ulis’ improved perimeter game is the biggest reason for his ascension to the elite.
‘‘When I was a freshman, I’d sometimes not shoot the ball after I’d miss a couple, and we lost games because of that,’’ he said. ‘‘Now I’m not afraid to take that shot. With (MeanStreets), I’m playing with some other nationally rated players and I’m ready to show what I can do with them.’’