Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
By JEREMY WOOSpecial to ZAGSBLOGMINNEAPOLIS — One of the AAU circuit’s best-kept secrets is, well, no longer a secret.
Enter Tyler Ulis.
On Friday night, the 5-foot-9 2014 point guard captained his shorthanded Meanstreets squad to a 60-56 win over previously undefeated Team Takeover. Without consensus top-100 prospects Vic Law and Paul White, Ulis and Meanstreets got off to a terrific start at the final EYBL session of the spring.
Only 24 teams advance to July’s Peach Jam finals, and the sense of urgency was clear.
“We came in knowing we had to play hard from the beginning,” Ulis said. “The last two sessions, in the first games people have jumped out on us and we lost to teams we should have beat. We knew we really needed this win to put ourselves in a good place to get into Peach Jam, so we just came out ready to play.”
Ulis’ stock has skyrocketed this spring, following a terrific junior year at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago’s South suburbs. His impact often goes beyond the stat sheet, as his instincts, court vision and basketball savvy consistently make his teammates better. A gifted scorer, Ulis knows when to pick his spots, and has proven he can carry a team when needed.
Though the recognition has finally come, Ulis has maintained every bit of his competitive edge.
“I try to prove to everybody that I can play at any level, no matter the height or the size I am,” he said. “I’m just coming out and trying to play and not worry about anything anyone else is saying.”
This spring, college coaches have come after Ulis in full force. He mentioned Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Missouri and USC as the schools he’s heard from the most of late. Other offers include Minnesota, Northwestern, Oregon State and Purdue.
“I’m liking everybody right now,” said Ulis. “I’m keeping my options open, trying to finish off the EYBL circuit and then me and my dad are really going to sit down and see what we’re going to do for the visits. I just want to have a good relationship with the coaches and see if it’s the best school for me with the academics and their style of play.”
His recruitment remains very much in progress, but Ulis was especially excited to receive a scholarship from Tom Izzo and Michigan State earlier this month. His cousin Travis Walton starred at guard for the Spartans in the 2000s, which made the offer particularly special.
“I’ve always been a fan of theirs,” said Ulis. “It’s always been kind of my dream school, I’ve been going to their games since I was young and so it was great to get that offer.”
Nobody is sleeping on Tyler Ulis anymore. And as Meanstreets keeps rolling, opponents certainly can’t afford to.
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.