MINNEAPOLIS— When Jaren Sina de-committed from Northwestern, there was one small upside.
Shortly after Sina’s decision, the NU coaching staff offered Tyler Ulis.
The 2014 point guard from Marian Catholic HS (Ill.) stands at just 5-foot-8, but he could be the program turner this NU team so desperately needs.
On Friday night at the Minneapolis stage of the Nike EYBL circuit, Ulis led his undermanned Meanstreets squad to a 60-56 victory against Team Takeover.
In the absence of teammates (and fellow NU targets) Vic Law and Paul White, Ulis served as the steadying force throughout the upset win.
It’s what he does. Ulis might never light up the score sheet. He’s concerned about winning, and that involves making his teammates better.
“We knew we had to come out and play hard,” Ulis said. “A few of the bench players stepped up.”
The strong top-to-bottom production is a testament to Ulis himself. He’s among the best ball-handling point guards of his class—someone who can attack the basket and kick the ball out to shooters. He’s quick on defense with active hands that frustrate opponents.
Chris Collins immediately took notice, as did many other coaches. What separates NU for Ulis, though, is the in-state appeal.
“It’s good to have local schools offer me in case I want to stay close to my family,” he said. “Then, they can come and see me play.”
His interest extends beyond the location. Ulis visibly lit up when asked about Chris Collins. They’ve already developed strong rapport, and Ulis understands the new direction of this program.
Vic Law voiced the same opinion: It’s not the NU team of old. Collins has carefully outlined his vision, and people–especially local prospects–are listening.
“He’s talking about how he wants to change the style of play, and how he wants to get up and down the court.” Ulis said. “That would fit me very well.”
Collins wants his offensive style to revolve around his given roster. That’s an attractive quality to elite talents, and a huge selling point in the new era of NU hoops.
Ulis is also used to building programs. The point guard led Marian Catholic to a team-record 29 wins, and in the process sparked a program that lacks basketball tradition. Sound familiar?
But of course, Ulis has seen his recruitment blow up. His offers now include Michigan State, Iowa and Florida. He’s widely expected to earn a four-star rating in the next Scout.com update.
That’s for good reason. He’s an exceptional two-way player who makes his teammates better, and this makes him an ideal building block for the NU program.
It will be difficult for Collins to land Ulis. Still, the new head coach has used his background as part of the pitch. Collins played the point at Duke—something that comes up frequently in their discussions.
“He was a great player and I’m sure he’s a great coach,” Ulis said. “That’s somebody I would like to play for because he played [the point]. He knows what I need to do to make it.”
Believe the hype. Tyler Ulis is just getting started, and Northwestern refuses to back down.