The specifics of Chris Collins’ recruiting approach will trickle out in anecdotal tidbits as he hits the 2014 prep scene looking to kick off his Northwestern tenure with a marquee class. Marian Catholic (Ill.) point guard Tyler Ulis came across one of Collins' more unique tactics: the former Glenbrook North McDonald’s All American brandished the jumpshot that made him one of the nation's top high schoolers. Ulis was impressed.
“Tyler seemed to enjoy that,” said Tyler’s father, James Ulis, Tuesday afternoon. “Tyler really seemed to like Chris’ confidence about basketball.”
At this rate, Tyler’s decision will be much more complicated than simply choosing the coach with the most “confidence". Ulis has – to put it bluntly – blown up on the recruiting scene in recent weeks. He starred at last week’s Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) Tournament in Los Angeles, and Wildcats assistant Tavaras Hardy spoke with James soon after to discuss Tyler’s strengths and weaknesses.
The discussion, to hear James tell it, consisted almost entirely of the former, and the dazzling highlights compacted therein: shooting, passing, creating and, most of all, “making others around him better.” Then it was Collins’ turn to speak with the elder Ulis, and the conversation provided a window into what could make Collins an effective recruiter in the coming years.
“Chris Collins’ resume speaks for itself,” Ulis said. “He was a great player. I’ve enjoyed watching his dad as a coach and he’s worked for one of the better coaches in the country in Coach K.”
Perhaps more important is what Northwestern could offer Tyler, who received an offer early last week. Collins raved about Tyler’s leadership qualities, and echoed basically everything Hardy mentioned above. He sees Tyler as a “true point guard” and a “true leader on the court.”
If landing an elite point guard is the symbolic chip to launch a successful inaugural recruiting haul, Ulis counts as an excellent candidate. Whether Northwestern is a realistic option at this point, whether Ulis will put the Collins-lead Wildcats amongst the likes of Florida, Purdue, Vanderbilt and quite possibly Michigan State (no offer yet, but very strong interest), will depend on Tyler’s academic and athletic priorities.
James described, best as he could, what could draw his son to the Wildcats.
“Tyler’s a really competitive kid,” Ulis said. “At Northwestern he’d get the ball in his hands a lot. He’d have a chance to play real close to home, to have the same fans as he had in high school. They can only go up from a Big Ten standpoint.”
No decisions have been made on a list of “top five” schools, and Tyler remains eager to elevate his stature through various tournaments and showcases this summer, all while piling up as many offers as possible. James did emphasize he and Tyler plan to make a visit to Evanston sometime this spring.
“They’re so close. We don’t need a plane ticket or anything,” he said.
Even the staunchest NU fans have to admit Ulis – given his growing list of offers – is less an expected commit than a cautiously optimistic proposition at this stage. There is mutual interest – just as exists with Florida and Michigan State and other programs.
Collins has made strong impression, and as of Tuesday afternoon, Ulis is intrigued, and definitely a player worth watching over the summer and into the fall.