UK Ulis Embraces New Leadership

Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis scored six points in 17 minutes of play against Wisconsin in this year’s NCAA Final Four game. Photo by Victoria Graff | Contributing Photographer

Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis scored six points in 17 minutes of play against Wisconsin in this year’s NCAA Final Four game. Photo by Victoria Graff | Contributing Photographer

Tyler Ulis stands just 5-foot-9, but the UK point guard is the leader of a team that will tip off the 2015-16 ranked No. 1 in the nation. He averaged 5.6 points per game as a freshman, including two 14-point efforts. One of those came against archrival UofL. Ulis scored 14, hitting 5 of his 8 shots, in a 58-50 win at the KFC Yum! Center.

How different is Tyler Ulis today compared to Tyler Ulis a year ago?
I’m the same person, just a year older. I’m just trying to play and take on a bigger role on this team. Andrew is not here for me to sit back and watch, so I have to lead these guys and try to lead us to victory.

What’s the most important thing you learned from Andrew?
Just how to deal with Cal. He never really – he was fine with Cal yelling at him and stuff. Last year he was okay with it. He’s a great player and he taught me things in the pick and roll, just watching his game. Honestly helped me play against a bigger guard was the best thing he did for my game.

How long did it take you before you got over the last game last year?
I’m not over it. I still think about it today.

You’re still mad?
Still mad.

Do you think about it every day?
I don’t know about every day, but almost every day.

Do you realize that you did have an amazing season?
I understand that. We did have a great season – we won 38 straight games, but we lost the most important game. We could have lost earlier in the year 10 times, and it would have been better than that.

Is Cal yelling you at practice any different than Cal yelling at you during a game?
He’s the same person. You mess up, he’s gonna get on you.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned from John Calipari?
On the court, he’s taught me a lot. Confidence-wise, he makes me be confident in myself. He doesn’t want me thinking that I’ll never make it to the NBA. He believes in me and my dream, just like I believe in it.

How do you see Derek Willis fitting in to what this team wants to do?
Derek, to me, is really good. I really Derek’s game. He’s a great player. When we played together in the Bahamas, he did really well, and I feel like he can show a lot of people some things. It’s up to Derek. If he works hard, he’s going to be great for us, and we’re gonna need him this year.

Do you see a different Derek?
Last year in pickup game, he was Derek. He did what he had to do. He made shots and stuff like that. It’s just we were so deep, he really didn’t have a spot at the time. This year, he’s going to step into it. VT