Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Elite point guard play has been a hallmark of John Calipari’s Kentucky teams. The Wildcats typically pluck one of the nation’s best floor generals from any given recruiting class, drill them in the arts of the dribble-drive offense, their draft stock soaring all the while, then – with Calipari’s customary backing – encourage them to enter the NBA draft, where a first-round selection awaits. From John Wall to Brandon Knight to Tyreke Evans to Marquis Teague, Kentucky under Calipari has become the most desirable landing spot in the country for highly-touted high school point guards looking for the quickest and most seamless path to the NBA. In fact, dating back to 2007-’08, when Memphis rode Derrick Rose’s face-melting talents to the brink of a national championship, Calipari has started a new point guard every season (a salient statistic pointed out late last week by The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy). The run of truly elite point men ended in 2012-13 with Ryan Harrow, whose inability to handle the big stage, and general lack of talent and athleticism, was evident from the start.
There should be little expectation for a regression in point guard play when Ulis (likely) takes over in 2014 (AP Photo).
But the streak of alternating point guards continued all the same, as it will in 2013-14, when top-ranked Andrew Harrison, one member of Kentucky’s insane 2013 recruiting class featuring six McDonald’s All-Americans and three players ranked No. 1 at their respective positions, according to ESPN, will take over. Once Harrison leaves (probably after one season), Kentucky will have to brace itself for the likelihood – gasp! – of a point guard keeping his starting spot for more than one season. That was one of the implications of Marian Catholic (IL) guard Tyler Ulis, a consensus top-40 player in 2014, committing to Kentucky Friday. Ulis is not like the star UK point guards of recent vintage – long, physical, equal parts scoring prowess and distributive intuition. The 5’8’’, 150-pound guard is a point guard in the traditional mold – more a shot creator (NBC’s Rob Dauster, apparently impressed with Ulis at an AAU event, nicknamed Ulis “Tyler the Creator”) than a shot maker. Ulis’s stock soared this summer on the AAU circuit after a series of brilliant performances against elite competition, including a 22-point, 17-assist effort at the EYBL Peach Jam in a highly anticipated match-up between his team, Meanstreets, and the Howard Pulley squad led by Tyus Jones, the No. 1-ranked point guard in 2014, who is expected to commit Duke (and has reiterated his belief that he and Jahlil Okafor, the top-ranked overall player in 2014, are a “package deal”).
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