Tyler Ulis has been the subject of some intrigue in MSU basketball recruiting circles. Tonight, Joe Henricksen of Chicago's City/Suburban Hoops Report tweeted that Ulis has received a Michigan State offer. First, it's hard to know whether this is 100% legit or whether there's any conditions on this offer (summer play, a specific development, classwork, etc.) but let's say for article's sake that this is a full-bore invitation to become a Spartan. My hunch is that it is and there will only be more confirmation in the following days/weeks of MSU's strong interest in Ulis.
Before considering the complexities of this offer, let's talk about Tyler Ulis himself because I think that's the ultimate bottom-line. Can this guy play and can he play for us? The answer is "absolutely." Ulis possesses all the skills you want out of a point guard. His handle and vision allow him to beat the press, attack the lane, and dish off to cutting teammates. He has a very fast release which helps him get off his shot against larger opponents when guarded. His outside shooting is above average to good. While just becoming a national name this spring, Ulis already has the respect of the Chicago basketball community and is talked about among the current elites like Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander. He's been compared to other standout smaller point guards including D.J. Cooper, Dee Brown, and Yogi Ferrell. Some of his most recent offers are from Florida and Butler and he's been carrying offers from Iowa, Florida St., Purdue, Northwestern, and others for some time.
There's multiple strong recent videos of Ulis so here is one with another link below:
Tyler Ulis EYBL Mixtape (via mwballers)
As everyone notes, Ulis' major challenge is his size. He's listed most places at 5'8" and that's probably close to his final adult height. If he were four inches taller, MSU would already be battling North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky. That's part of what I like about Ulis. In classic MSU style, he has undeniable talent and accomplishments as a high school player. However, he also is accompanied by just enough doubt and physical impediments that he could be seen as someone coming into East Lansing with something to prove. Coach Izzo has done a lot with those players in the past.
Where does MSU stand with Ulis? They do have one major asset in that Ulis is the cousin of former MSU captain Travis Walton who should be in MSU's corner. He also comes from a recruiting area that MSU has been targeting intensely. In need of a point guard (or two?), MSU would be a great local fit if Ulis wants to play within an easy day's drive of his family. Recent Windy City Spartan signee Alvis Ellis included Ulis in the list of prospects he'd be recruiting out of his hometown to join him at MSU. There's definitely cause for optimism about Michigan State being able to land the services of this player.
So, let's talk about the big wailing elephant in the room. How would a commitment from Ulis effect Tyus Jones? There's no doubt this is a tricky situation. As I said before on twitter, bringing in two point guards in a class is similar to trying to add two quarterbacks in football. Both players will tend to see themselves as the alpha dog deserving of the spotlight. Tyus Jones already dropped North Carolina when they received a commitment from PG Joel Berry. That could be a different situation though. UNC was not thought to be in the lead for Jones' services and Berry was a competing 5-star player. Would Izzo have any luck convincing Tyus Jones that his access to playing time wouldn't be compromised by the addition of Ulis? Where does a senior Travis Trice fit in the mix? The unavoidable truth is that adding Tyler Ulis is not likely to help MSU's chances with Tyus Jones. We can be sure that Coach Izzo and staff have considered all the variables: Ulis' ability on his own merits, Jones' likelihood of picking MSU with or without another PG, and their respective timetables. If this offer results in a 2014 class including Ulis but not Tyus Jones, it'll be hard to second guess Tom Izzo especially with Jones' serious interest in Duke. If that means waving goodbye to Jahlil Okafor as well, so be it. Throw out a class like Ulis, A.J. Turner, Devin Booker, and Cliff Alexander and you're still talking about very strong stuff. There's plenty of time to figure this out and establish a great class. MSU striking the hot iron on Tyler Ulis is big news for MSU basketball recruiting and just the start of things for this round of activity as AAU gets underway.