When John Calipari recruits a point guard to come play for him, he is usually called upon to play right away and produce at a high level. It is usually his job to be the floor general, the team leader, and the face of the mighty Kentucky Wildcats. The team generally sinks or rises with this individual, only going as far as they can lead them. Next season, Tyler Ulis is the man coming in, heralded as the next great Calipari point guard. The only thing is, he won’t be starting. That job goes to Andrew Harrison, who decided to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season. For this reason, Ulis won’t be facing the normal pressures associated with Kentucky point guards, which is something that CBS sports touches on.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to have a major impact for Kentucky next season. In fact, the early word I’m hearing out of Lexington is that Ulis has been terrific for the Wildcats so far this summer. The 5-foot-9 floor general is a pass-first player who knows where to get his teammates the ball and has the rare chance to play big minutes for Calipari as a freshman but not have to be immediately inserted into the starting lineup. With Andrew and Aaron Harrison both deciding to bypass the NBA and return to school for their sophomore seasons, Kentucky is now actually operating like a normal college program where veterans start and freshman come along at their own pace as reserves. Since Kemp took the baton for Calipari at Memphis during the 2006-07 season, the list of point guards that have played for the most powerful coach in the sport goes as follows: Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, Ryan Harrow, Andrew Harrison. Harrow (17.8 points last season), who left Lexington after one year to transfer to Georgia State, is the only player on that list not to have immediate success under Calipari. Everyone else in that group is currently in the NBA and Harrison figures to be there a year from now. There’s a different dynamic surrounding Ulis compared to his recent predecessors, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to have an incredibly productive career for the Wildcats.
With the pressure off Ulis, he will be able to develop at his own rate. This will also start a backlog of point guards at Kentucky, which is something that will benefit the program in the long run. Consistency is the name of the game, and now that Calipari has Tyler Ulis, this game will begin to snowball in a way that was never thought possible. For Kentucky, this is a great thing. For the rest of college basketball, well…RIP.