Tyler Ulis wouldn’t be the typical John Calipari point guard in terms of size. He’s much shorter than John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague, and everyone knows that by now.
What Calipari likes about the 5-foot-9 prospect is his mentality on the court. Marian Catholic (Ill.) Coach Mike Taylor talked to the Herald-Leader about Ulis’ size, and how he uses that and his basketball IQ as an advantage.
Q: Does Tyler have a chip on his shoulder about his size?
Taylor: “Definitely. He started for me since he was a freshman. He was 5-4 then. He’s guarded people anywhere from 5-8 to 6-7. So he’s played against every kind. He’s played against long, he’s played against strong, he’s played against quick. So when he went up against those guys in the summer — as good as they are, it’s really nothing that he hasn’t seen in the last three years. And when I talk to coaches about him playing against the top guards – they had more trouble guarding him than he had guarding them. Because of how low and how quick and how clever he is with the ball.”
Q: How does he defend guys who are as big as a player like Emmanuel Mudiay — 6-5, 6-6 guys?
Taylor: “He gets up under them. He can watch a guy — watch a film clip of him — for 10 minutes, and he’ll know that kid’s moves and he’ll beat them to spots all the time. It’s amazing to watch him. He is so quick. Those bigger kids — he gets under them — and they can’t do anything with him. Because he’s so low and so quick laterally. That’s where those tall guards have a problem. And I’ve said this to coaches for the last two years: I haven’t seen too many college teams post up guards anyways. I don’t see it in the NBA. With the shot clock and with defenses being as sophisticated as they are, there’s not many teams running an offense predicated on posting up their point guard. And if the point guard gives the ball up, that kid’s not getting it back. You talk about a chip on his shoulder, that’s kind of what he does. You have to watch how smart he is and how he positions himself and how he leverages. He’s a step ahead of them, both with his feet and his mind.”
Q: He regularly watches film of opponents?
Taylor: “College coaches have said that when they watch film with him, they can ask a question and he can point it out right there. His vision, his creativity, his knowledge – it’s special. And I overuse that word, but it is. He’s rare.”
Q: Could he be a coach one day? Does he have that type of mentality?
Taylor: “He could be a coach, but maybe he’d be more like Jordan. Because he’s really hard on people. He really expects people to compete as hard as he does all the time. He expects a lot from his teammates. Just a couple of weeks ago, he tweeted that he was not going to lose an open gym game all fall. He hasn’t lost yet. And I have stacked teams against him. And he just won’t lose. He’s that competitive.”