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.
Whether Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker end up packaging together in college remains to be seen, but both players have talked about it.
Ulis, a point guard from Chicago, and Booker, a shooting guard from Missouri, will both be at Michigan State together on their visit today and Saturday and will then head to Kentucky on Sunday and Monday.
“There’s a natural connection there,” James Ulistold the Detroit Free Press of his son and Booker’s relationship developed on the AAU circuit.
“If I’m Devin and I want to find a point guard who really knows how to give the ball up and be unselfish, who really knows how to get shots for people, I think that’s how the connection started,” James Ulis added. “Now I think they’re starting to think it could be a reality. They certainly talk about it more than any of us have.”
MSU will break out all the stops on alumni weekend, with Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Draymond Green all expected on campus, according to the Free Press.
With senior point guard Keith Appling graduating and sophomore shooting guard Gary Harris likely headed to the NBA, coach Tom Izzo can offer immediate playing time to Ulis and Booker.
Ulis also has a family connection to Michigan State since his mother, Kelly Reed, is the aunt of former MSU guard Travis Walton. Ulis remains tight with Walton.
“Of course he’d love to see Tyler pick Michigan State,” James Ulis told the Free Press. “But the main thing he’s said through this whole thing is, ‘Hey, Tyler’s got to do what’s best for him.’ ”
MSU has also offered former Louisville pledge Quentin Snider, another point guard, as well as former Indiana commit James Blackmon Jr., a shooting guard.
Ulis visited Iowa last weekend and told SNY.tv it went “great.”
James Ulis told the Free Press that Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has long been appreciative of his son.
“It makes it harder, because there’s a sense of, 18 months ago or 16 months ago or whatever, Fran was saying what people are saying today about Tyler,” James Ulis told the paper. “He was the first one to really see that in him, that he can be a great player at this level.”
Kentucky is Kentucky and the Wildcats now need a point guard in 2014 having struck out on Emmanuel Mudiay (SMU) and with Tyus Jones potentially headed to Duke.
It may be hard for Ulis to resist the allure of Kentucky if they put on the fullcourt press.
As for the 6-5 Booker, his mother lives in Michigan while his father, Melvin Booker, was a former star at Mizzou.
He lists Michigan State, Michigan, Florida, Kentucky and Mizzou, with MSU and UK the first two of his five officials.
“Michigan State, that’s the closest school back to my mom,” Devin told SNY.tv in the above video. “My mom lives in Grand Rapids, it’s like 40 minutes away from my mom. And I’ve built a great relationship with Tom Izzo and Tom Izzo is going to go down as one of the best coaches ever.
“I like to see players at my position at that school, and what I’ve seen from Gary Harris I’ve really liked.”
Asked if there would be pressure from mom to stay home, Booker said: “It would be nice to play close to my friends and close to my first family when I was in Michigan, but if it comes down to it either way they could see me play.”
Ulis and Booker will be at Kentucky Sunday and Monday, when the Alumni Game will feature stars of the 2010 team against those from 2012.
“Definitely looking forward to that, that’s the only school I haven’t visited so far,” Booker said.
“And I just want to get there, talk face-to-face with [coach John] Calipari and just really enjoy the visit . I’ve been everywhere else, I haven’t been there. I’ve heard about Rupp Arena and Big Blue Nation, that’s just something I want to see for myself.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, 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.