Marian Catholic’s Tyler Ulis repeats as SouthtownStar Boys Basketball Player of the Year
By Pat Disabato email@example.com March 28, 2014 10:24PM
Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis during Tuesday evening's IHSA class 4A supersectional against Edwardsville at Illinois State's Redbird Arena, in Normal, Ill., March 18, 2014. Edwardsville won the game in overtime, 65-60. | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 1, 2014 6:35AM
Tyler Ulis ended his basketball career at Marian Catholic scoring more points (2,335), dishing out more assists (578) and recording more steals (283) than any player in the program’s history.
There’s no debating his standing in Marian hoops history: at the top.
The 5-foot-9 guard averaged 23 points, 6.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds this season, leading Marian to 28 victories and its second consecutive supersectional appearance.
It’s safe to say no other player had a greater effect on his team’s performance than the 5-foot-9 point guard.
That’s why, for the second consecutive season, Ulis is the SouthtownStar Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“It means a lot to be honored with this award, especially two years in a row,” Ulis said. “There are a lot of great players in this area.”
Those who had the good fortune of watching Ulis witnessed greatness up close and personal during the 2013-14 season. There’s not much, with the exception of dunking, the Kentucky recruit can’t do on a basketball court. That was apparent every game, whether it was scoring, setting up teammates for baskets, breaking free of opposing teams’ pressure defense or making the proper decisions.
Not only is Ulis physically gifted, but his basketball IQ is off the charts. Each and every game, he made it all look so easy.
“It’s hard to put into words what he meant to the program,” Marian coach Mike Taylor said. “Yes, he’s extremely talented. But what I’m most impressed with is his desire to get better every day. He’s never satisfied. He’s probably in the gym right now. He just wants to get better.”
Ulis knows he has to get better if he’s going to realize his ambitions as a college player. Kentucky attracts the best talent from around the country. He can’t afford to rest on his laurels.
“You can’t go to Kentucky thinking you’re better than you are,” Ulis said. “I have to keep working hard and keep getting better. When I get the chance, I have to do the things I know how to do to win games.”
With a growing list of elite college programs in hot pursuit, what was it about Kentucky and coach John Calipari that made it the right fit?
“Coach Cal is a great guy,” Ulis said. “He never promised me anything. He told me I’d have to work hard. Their dribble-drive offense fits me — I can get into the lane and do what I like to do. It’s a big stage and a lot of history at Kentucky.”
In a season full of accomplishments, Marian’s inability to realize its top goal — the Class 4A state championship — doesn’t sit well with Ulis.
A case of turf toe during the sectional and supersectional had him playing at less than 100 percent. The Spartans were able to overcome Homewood-Flossmoor to win the Thornton Sectional, but for the second straight season were sidetracked by Edwardsville in the super.
“It felt terrible,” Ulis said of the loss to Edwardsville. “We expected to go downstate. We should have won that game. I still think about it. But we still had a good year.”