Tyler Ulis drafted by Phoenix Suns

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Tyler Ulis capped an All-America sophomore season by being selected in the second round of the NBA Draft (No. 34 overall) by the Phoenix Suns.

Ulis was the third Kentucky player selected in the draft, joining former teammates Jamal Murray (No. 7) and Skal Labissiere (No. 28), who were first-round selections. He is the 28th UK draft pick in John Calipari’s seven seasons as head coach. In Phoenix, Ulis will be reunited with former Kentucky teammate and close friend Devin Booker.

At 5-foot-9, Ulis was not considered a high-level draft prospect out of high school, but Calipari now famously told him not to come to Kentucky if he expected to remain in school for four years. Ulis backed up point guard Andrew Harrison as a freshman then took over the reins of the team as a sophomore, setting a school record with 246 assists while averaging 17.3 points per game to earn Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and consensus All-America honors.

“He's the best floor general,” Calipari said. “And, you know, I had John Wall and Derrick Rose, I had Brandon Knight, I had Tyreke Evans. I had a lot of really good point guards. Andrew Harrison was a terrific point guard. This kid was the best floor general that I could let him do his thing for our team and just tell him, ‘What do you think?’ and he would have a good feel.”

Reports of a hip injury discovered in pre-draft workouts complicated projections of where Ulis would be selected before the draft and may have contributed to his slide out of the first round, but he showed enough in two seasons at Kentucky to convince NBA teams he had a professional future.

“He’s going to be a bit of a trend setter there, but he has elite court vision, he is probably the best passing point guard in this draft,” ESPN.com NBA Draft analyst Chad Ford said. “That intrigues some people.”

Calipari repeatedly downplayed any disadvantage for Ulis because of his size during pre-draft media appearances, pointing to Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas as proof a shorter point guard could succeed in the NBA.

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While some noted Thomas boasts a stockier frame than Ulis and is a more capable scorer, Calipari insisted his former point guard would be a special player at the professional level.

“All I know is, if he’s not a starter in that league initially, if he is your second-unit point guard, he’s going to coach them and he’s going to have those guys happy,” Calipari said. “They’re going to be juiced about going in games, because they’re going to get the ball where they can score. And believe me, they want to win, but they also want to play well. He’ll do that for them.”

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