Ulis’ NBA Draft Stock Soaring

When Coach Cal was recruiting sophomore All-America point guard Tyler Ulis, he told the 5-foot-9 floor general that if he expected to play four years of college ball to not come to Kentucky. It was at that moment that Ulis knew UK was the school for him.

Two years later, he may be ready to leave.

“He’s big time,” Briscoe said of his teammate Ulis. “He’s a big-time point guard. Everybody always talks about, ‘He’s not big enough, he’s not tall enough.’ But he has the heart of a lion and he showed it (Sunday against Texas A&M).”

Ulis hasn’t come out and made his future plans public, but after putting together one of the greatest seasons by a point guard in Kentucky’s illustrious history, his head coach has given the impression that Ulis will be playing at the next level next season.

“I’m happy for him,” Coach Cal said. “You had a guy that, you know, when he came here, you had everybody tell me, ‘You’ve got a four-year point guard. This is how you should do it. He doesn’t need to have all pros.’ Well, you were wrong again. I mean, here’s this kid that’s going to be a pro. He’ll be drafted this year – after two years.”

Ulis’ draft stock has skyrocketed over the final months and weeks of the season from a projected mid-to-late second round pick to a first-round selection by both CBS Sports and DraftExpress.com.

He is averaging 17.2 points and 7.1 assists per game, and is just five assists shy of breaking John Wall’s single-season program record of 241. In league play, Ulis’ numbers are even more impressive. He has logged 18.3 points and 8.4 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.5.

“Every game we’ve played he’s gotten steadier and more into how he has to play and how our team has to play,” Coach Cal said. “He’s led better. He’s made better basketball decisions. He’s got his teammates involved. He deserves everything that’s happened. And he’s made everybody’s job, including mine, easier.”

In six games against ranked opponents, Ulis is averaging a team-high 24.0 points and 8.3 assists, shooting 55.2 percent from the field with a 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. He doesn’t leave the floor often, but he really doesn’t leave the court in those big games, playing 252 of a possible 255 minutes against ranked teams.

A First Team All-American according to the Sporting News, and the SEC player of the year, defensive player of the year and tournament MVP, Ulis been an on-court coach throughout the season, and has never allowed his diminutive height affect his play against bigger and taller players the likes of which he would face in the NBA on a nightly basis. 

Only eight players have been drafted since 2000 who are smaller that 6-0, but Ulis is not your everyday player.

“If you’re playing against him, he doesn’t play 5-9,” Calipari said. “I mean, he’s shooting over bigs, he’s pulling up from the foul line, he’s scoring layups on 6-10 guys. So what does it matter that he’s 5-9? There may be situations where he goes too deep and everybody is big. Ok, but we don’t see that often because he’s smart enough not to put himself in those positions.

“But the biggest thing that people sometimes miss is when I watched the tape of this game, his energy level and his disruptiveness on defense probably sets him apart. So now, instead of you just looking at player of the year nationally, as his numbers offensively, which are like eye popping – like, eye-popping – you then shift and say, ‘Well, he also does it on defense.’ Now you have a player that truly had player-of-the-year numbers and efforts and all those things.”

On Thursday’s episode of The Dan Patrick Show, former Kentucky and NBA guard Rex Chapman made an appearance as a guest, and Ulis became a topic of conversation. Patrick and Chapman, like many others around the country who have come to notice with Ulis, gave glowing remarks, and reaching the NBA only seems to be a matter of time for UK’s leader, and that time is getting shorter and shorter.

"I have not seen a point guard who is the embodiment of what you would want on the floor in a long time,” Patrick said of Ulis. “And I know I’m doing a disservice to other point guards, but man, I love watching this kid play."

“No, he’s fantastic. You’re right,” Chapman said. “And yes, he’ll play in the NBA. He’ll be a first-round pick when it’s all said and done. He just plays the game with so much character and integrity, gets wherever he wants to go. … He’s just about winning. I hope that the league doesn’t let Tyler Ulis slip to the Warriors or the Spurs, because that’d be dangerous for the rest of the league. He’s really good.”