Tyler Ulis went to Kentucky as a backup point guard to Andrew Harrison, but ended up playing a lot of minutes in his freshman year due to Kentucky’s platoon system. The team was undefeated until the Final Four when they lost to Wisconsin. Seven players went to the NBA to chase their dreams, while the 5 foot 9 inch Ulis decided to go back to school because he wasn’t expected to be an early draft pick. During this season he started off with some hype and has turned out to be everything that Kentucky fans could’ve wanted and more because he is the best point guard in college basketball.
Kentucky’s big men have been inconsistent at best this season, which has forced Ulis to be more aggressive in finding his own shot. He averaged 5.6 points per game as a freshman and is now averaging 16.6 points per game. His three point field goal percentage is down, but he is still shooting a respectable 31% from behind the line. Ulis has also shown that he can get to the bucket, despite his size and draw fouls, picking up even more points because of his great 85% free throw rate. The Wildcats have needed Ulis to score and he has answered the call.
The most impressive part about Ulis is his ability to make his teammates better by passing the basketball. Ulis is averaging 7.4 assists per game, which makes him tied for fifth in the country. His 221 assists this season currently sits third on the Kentucky all-time single season assist list. He is 20 behind John Wall for the most assists in a season and will surely pass him in the next two weeks. In six of the last nine games, he has ten or more assists. During this time he has helped Skal Labissiere improve his game by setting him up for open shots and has found Jamal Murray often for three point shots.
Ulis also possesses the leadership required to be the best point guard in the country. When John Calipari got thrown out of their game at South Carolina very early in the first half, Ulis was tasked with running the offense. Coach Kenny Payne, who filled in for Calipari, said that he was letting Ulis run the offense and he was trying to coach the defense. Ulis did a phenomenal job of running the offense that day, finishing with 27 points and 12 assists. The Wildcats were able to escape Columbia with a very important road win and Ulis showed how good his leadership truly was.
Toughness is another characteristic that makes Ulis such a great point guard. Last season he got an elbow to the face and started bleeding against rival Louisville. He still played good defense and scored 14 points, which is impressive considering how many other scorers were on Kentucky last season.
While playing a pickup game at Kentucky before his freshman season, he was playing with current NBA stars, which is tough enough, but what happened shows his grit. Former Kentucky center Demarcus Cousins and he disagreed with a foul call and things got heated. Ulis stood his ground and won the argument. So Ulis won’t be backing down anytime soon.
This season he has taken a beating as well, getting an arm injury against USF and only missing one game. He has some other bumps and bruises because he averages 36.8 minutes per game, but continues to not flinch and to play hard.
Some will say that players like Yogi Ferrell, Melo Trimble and Kris Dunn are better point guards, but if I’m picking a person to run my team, it is Tyler Ulis without a question.