Bob Seggerson: Two “Lima guys” snag coveted GA positions

Tyler Ulis and Tre Cobbs first met years ago as very young teammates playing midget league football together on the “Gators” here in Lima. But it would be basketball that would chart their future.

The childhood friends recently landed on the coaching staffs of two prestigious college basketball programs with the opportunity to work under head coaches with impressive credentials. Ulis was hired as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Kentucky by his former coach, Hall of Famer John Calipari. Cobbs has been named a Graduate Assistant at the University of Memphis and will be learning the game from Penny Hardaway, a former NBA great who is building a powerhouse program in Memphis.

Ulis, who was a student at Shawnee through the 8th grade before moving to Illinois, has always called Lima home. “Lima will always be my hometown,” he says. “I’m a Lima kid, my mindset was framed here by hanging around and playing against tough kids who took the game seriously and had a passion for basketball. I have a lot of great memories playing at school, the YMCA and at T-Bird Camp. My mom still lives in Lima and I come home every opportunity I get.”

Tyler’s basketball resume is impressive. In high school he was one of the nation’s top recruits and a McDonalds All-American. He signed with the University of Kentucky and made an immediate impact his freshman year. He started at point guard and led the Wildcats on a 38-game winning streak before losing in the 2015 Final Four. As a sophomore, Tyler was named a Consensus first team All-American and the Southeast Conference Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He also won the Bob Cousy award as the top point guard in the country. Ulis was the 34th player chosen in the 2016 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns.

In his two years with the Suns Ulis started 58 games and averaged 7 points and 4 assists a game. Injuries impacted his professional experience. His NBA career highs were 34 points against the Houston Rockets and 13 assists against the Lakers. He bounced around the NBA G-League for a couple years but battled injuries. The biggest challenge of Tyler’s life occurred in February of 2022.

While driving on I-75 near Detroit last year, Ulis was involved in a head on collision with a drunk driver who was driving the wrong way on the highway. He was hospitalized with multiple broken bones and still uses a crutch to get around. “I knew what that meant for my dream of getting back into the league,” he says. “I decided that while I was healing, I was going to move back to Lexington and finish my degree in communications.”

When coach Calipari heard that news, he approached Ulis and asked him to join his staff as a GA working with their young guards. “I want to stay around the game. I see things that others might not see and I’m excited to be able to help these guys,” he says. “Coach Calipari has been great to me. Who better to learn the game from?”

Calipari is excited to have Ulis on his staff. He recently told reporters, “I love Tyler. He’s in our practices and he talks with me afterwards. I want him to watch tape and give me ideas. I told him, “You are giving back to the school and to all these kids and this program, and I appreciate it.’”

Ulis has discovered that the coaching game demands a huge commitment in terms of time. “My first game was against Louisville on Saturday, a big rival. I was up at 5:00 am to get ready for a morning shoot around at 7:00. Then there was films, lunch and meetings and the game. On Tuesday we played a game

against LSU and I was up till midnight looking at film. I am just observing a lot and trying to figure it all out and help where ever I can” he says.

Tyler plans on finishing his degree by the end of the year and will decide on the direction his life will take when it’s completed. “I’ve been through a lot. Whether it’s coaching or training, I just want to give back to the younger generation the things I have been lucky enough to have received,” he says.

Ulis’ resiliency and optimism in the face of the difficult physical challenges he has confronted has been an inspiration to everyone who knows Tyler’s story.

Tre Cobbs is making the most of his opportunity as well. Cobbs, a 2018 graduate of Lima Central Catholic had a spectacular high school career. He was a leader on teams that went to state three times and brought home two state championships and one runner-up trophy. He earned a scholarship at division one Northern Kentucky along with his high school teammate Dantez Walton. Tre later played at Kentucky Wesleyan and used the NCAA extra year of COVID eligibility to start at point guard for Georgia Southern.

Cobbs made the Dean’s List at NKU and earned a degree in Organizational Management. He plans to finish his Masters in Sports Management while working as a GA at Memphis. His decision to enter the coaching profession was not easy. “Like a lot of former college players, I wanted to continue to play ball,” he says. “I got an agent and began looking into the possibility of playing overseas. I called one of my former coaches at Georgia Southern, who had been hired as an assistant coach at Memphis, and asked his advice. He told me about the GA position and that I should consider it.”

Although the position was a great opportunity, Tre had to convince himself that he was headed in the right direction. “I hated to take off my shoes and give up my dream of playing ball but I just decided to switch dreams,” he said. I always knew I wanted to get into coaching when my playing days were over. I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I think it’s in God’s plan for me.”

A Graduate Assistant’s job requires a lot of time management and dealing with multiple duties. “I’ve been really busy,” says Tre. “I work at practices, in the weight room, individual workouts, breaking down film and helping players who want to get in extra shooting before or after practice. I’m just learning as much as I can and coach Hardaway is a great teacher of the game”

Only time will tell where the story leads for these two “Lima guys,” but based on their past success and commitment to achieving their goals, it’s going to be interesting to follow their careers.

[email protected]