He was an elementary school phenom in Lima, both for his talent and his size.
Now Tyler Ulis plays basketball in Chicago and is one of the top point guard recruits in the Midwest going into his senior year of high school.
The 5-foot, 9-inch point guard averaged 22 points and 4.8 assists to lead his Chicago Heights Marian Catholic team to 29 wins and its first sectional boys basketball title this season. He has 1,612 career points in three high school seasons.
Those three seasons, along with his performance in AAU games, have made Ulis a hot prospect.
He has narrowed his list of schools to seven — DePaul, Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue and USC. That means schools like Florida, Vanderbilt and Butler, which also offered, have been eliminated.
ESPN.com ranks him the No. 9 player overall in Illinois, and he is its highest-ranked point guard in that state.
Ulis lived with his mother, Kelly Reed, in Lima before moving to Chicago to live with his father, James Ulis, when he went into high school.
“He definitely wants to sign in the early signing period in November,” James Ulis said.
A verbal commitment could come this summer, but there is no timetable.
The older Ulis said feeling like there is a strong relationship with a coach will be an important factor in his son’s decision.
“He has had some great relationships with some coaches,” he said. “Obviously, some schools have come late. But I think the first thing we want for him is a great relationship with a coach. He has a lot of tough decisions to make.”
DePaul and Iowa were the first two big schools to offer. The Blue Demons and Hawkeyes have been pursuing him since the end of his sophomore season.
Maybe the biggest reason Ulis did not get more offers early in his high school career is what he called “the height thing” earlier this year.
When he entered high school, Ulis was 5-feet, 3-inches tall. But a growth spurt has him up to a listed height of 5-9, though he might actually be closer to 5-8.
“When he was a freshman, I can remember a couple of guys in the stands who were like, ‘That guy’s too little,’” James Ulis said. “Even a year ago people were questioning his size, but now they don’t.”
His size was one of the things that made him a memorable basketball prodigy when he was in Lima.
Long-time Lima Central Catholic coach Bob Seggerson remembers when Ulis showed up at his camp as a third grader.
“I let him play with the fourth and fifth graders and he was the best player in camp even though he was two heads shorter than anyone else,” Seggerson said.
“He came to my camp every year and was as close to Aaron Hutchins at that age as anyone I ever saw,” he said. “He was a great shooter, a great handle, tough as nails.”
Ulis is related to Lima Senior’s Travis Walton, a three-year captain at Michigan State, so some people think he could also end up playing for Tom Izzo.
Ulis recently told spartanmag.com that Michigan State has “always been kind of my dream school.”