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Disabato: Every game, Marian Catholic’s Tyler Ulis is a must-see performer

Tyler Ulis Marian Catholic during game against Bloom for Sectional actiThorntTuesday March 11th 2014 Harvey | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

Tyler Ulis, of Marian Catholic, during the game against Bloom for Sectional action at Thornton, Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 in Harvey | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 14, 2014 11:06AM



I’ve covered Marian Catholic do-it-all Tyler Ulis at least a dozen times throughout his soon-to-be-completed four-year varsity career.

I’ve run out of adjectives to adequately describe his skill set.

Marvelous?

Amazing?

Ridiculous?

All of the above?

The answer, of course, is “D.”

There was something missing, however, from Ulis’ performance Tuesday night against Bloom.

Ulis was making a mockery of the Blazing Trojans defense, whether it was shooting, passing, ballhandling or rebounding.

Then, in the fourth quarter of Marian’s 66-45 victory, the missing ingredient appeared.

No, Marian hadn’t replaced the “3” on the front of Ulis’ jersey with an “S,” though such a vision would have stirred zero controversy among the near capacity crowd.

Bloom’s Jared Johnson was forced to foul Ulis, who was zigging and zagging around defenders in an effort to eat clock. Remember Curly Neal, the ballhandling wizard on the Harlem Globetrotters? That’s who Ulis resembled at that exact moment.

As Ulis was headed to the free-throw line moments after being fouled, Johnson whispered something to the 5-foot-9 point guard.

That caused the missing ingredient to appear.

Ulis turned toward Johnson and smiled.

Until that point, the Kentucky recruit appeared to have had his mouth sewed shut.

He hadn’t smiled during a jaw-dropping first-quarter performance that saw him bury five consecutive three-pointers, including a 26-footer that hit nothing but net.

He hadn’t smiled during a second quarter in which be nailed another three and finished with 20 of Marian’s 38 first-half points.

He hadn’t smiled after three quarters when he had scored 28 points and guided the Spartans to a 50-37 advantage.

Know this about Ulis: He has a smile that can light up a gym. If Ulis is 5-9, his smile is 5 feet wide.

OK. I’m exaggerating.

His smile, though, is unmistakable.

That it didn’t appear until late in the game says a lot about the competitive nature of the Kentucky recruit.

Ulis is on a mission, and likely won’t be stopped until he’s holding the Class 4A state championship trophy over his head.

“The biggest thing (Kentucky) coach (John) Calipari will find out is how much he (Ulis) hates to lose,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. “He’s just so darn competitive.”

“Just some playful trash-talking,” said Ulis of the moment which produced the smile.

Ulis was in assassin mode against Bloom.

His 40 points produced the headline. But his performance, like always, was much more than scoring. Exceptional ballhandling, sound decisions, marvelous passes, leadership — each was on display.

Ulis is special.

“He’s incredible,” Bloom coach Ron Ashlaw said. “Obviously, he has so much talent. But how well he understands the pulse of the game, the knowledge, vision, the understanding of his teammates. He understands the flow of the game, the tempo, the pace. It’s amazing to watch.”

Ashlaw knows a thing or two about talent. He coached enigmatic star Jereme Richmond at Waukegan and against Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson, regarded as one of the country’s best point guard prospects in the Class of 2015.

“Brunson and Ulis will play at the highest level,” Ashlaw said.

I don’t know if Ashlaw was referring to the highest level of college or the NBA.

What I do know is approximately a year ago the majority of high level Division I coaches considered Ulis too small. You watch Ulis and wonder what in the world were they thinking.

Eventually, he made believers of the naysayers.

“Each day that goes by, I see another thing I haven’t seen him do,” Taylor said. “He never ceases to amaze me.”

I implore folks who have yet to watch Ulis up close and personal to make an attempt to visit Thornton, a magnificent gym steeped in tradition, at 7 p.m. Friday.

Ulis is worth the prices of gas and admission.

And then some.



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