CRAWFORD | At NBA combine, Kentucky's Ulis isn't short on answer - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | At NBA combine, Kentucky's Ulis isn't short on answers for size questions

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Tyler Ulis speaks with reporters at the NBA's pre-draft combine in Chicago. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Tyler Ulis speaks with reporters at the NBA's pre-draft combine in Chicago. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

CHICAGO -- Give Tyler Ulis credit for this -- he hasn't tried to hide from the obvious question this week at the NBA's pre-draft combine.

When asked what the biggest difference is between him and other NBA Draft hopefuls in Chicago, the former University of Kentucky point guard told reporters on Thursday, "I'm shorter."

No use hiding it. There is nowhere to hide it. At this event, they measure you with shoes on and off, they weigh you, the measurements are posted. If they'd done that in the press room, we'd all have been home by Monday afternoon.

Ulis, however, isn't going anywhere. He's been short all his life. How has he dealt with it? Well, he was a consensus All-American as a sophomore in college. He can deal.

Let's get another thing straight: Ulis is not the shortest guy here. That actually would be Kay Felder of Oakland, who is 5-8 1/4, without shoes. Ulis is 5-8 3/4, and 5-10 with shoes on. Ulis is by far the lightest player at the combine. He's 149 pounds, nearly 14 pounds lighter than the next guy.

"Awfully small," one NBA scout told me, not exactly providing any scoops. "When you're that size, you just have to be really extraordinary."

So that's the challenge for Ulis, who isn't playing at the combine, but did go through the measurements and is interviewing with teams, including 9 or 10, by his count, so far, including San Antonio, Detroit, Memphis, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

What can he tell teams? What can you possibly say to scouts to make them start looking past your stature and looking more closely at your game? Goodness knows, we short people would love to know.

I mean, I do television stand-ups with Rick Bozich. I look like a Hobbit. So, you know, when Ulis talks about this, I'm all ears.

"Just make teams fall in love with me in the interviews," Ulis said. "Answer all their questions correctly, and be honest. . . . I'm going to work hard, doesn't matter my size."

A lot of times people say this about point guards, and it's almost cliché, but with Ulis, it's the truth -- he is a sharp player. When John Calipari was kicked out of a game at South Carolina just minutes in, assistant coach Kenny Payne didn't hide his strategy -- put the offense into Ulis' hands. It was a good decision, and one that Calipari went with often down the stretch of the season.

But Ulis' knowledge of the game isn't just on a micro level. He thinks the league is moving his direction.

"The league is getting smaller, no question," he said Thursday. "I love the way Brad Stevens has used Isaiah Thomas in Boston, he's been an inspiration to me. If you look around, guards are at a premium, ball handling, shooting, passing. I feel like there's a place for me."

Ulis has had the good fortune to be in one of his hometowns for the combine. In Chicago, he's been able to see family and friends (his father and agent advised him not to play at the combine). He played high school basketball here, and when he came out for interviews, there were five Chicago TV outlets there to talk to him, among the 25 reporters crammed around half a card table.

Ulis is good in this setting. He's learned from dealing with the media crowd at Kentucky. He expected the questions about his height, and was ready with answers. He even was ready when he was asked about one of his occasional critics, Dan Dakich, an ESPN analyst and Indianapolis radio host who, it should be said, gave Ulis a great deal of credit for his play as the season wore on.

"I don't really have a take on it," Ulis said. "It was just funny. The fans went crazy on him. He was mentioning me the entire season, but I was just laughing at it all. It's a lot of fun."

Ulis has a lot of smiles right now. He can't do anything about his height. He couldn't stretch himself when the measuring tape came out. But he still can influence the way people around the league look at him. His confidence, his basketball IQ, his feel for the game, he's hoping some around the league will take a hard look.

"This is what you dream about," he said. "Basketball is what I love doing. There's no reason for me to be anxious. I'm just going to enjoy this. . . . At my size, I've always had to come out and play harder, play with a chip on my shoulder, outwork everybody. It's all I know."

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