The first major recruiting domino in the Chicagoland area fell for the Class of 2020 on Tuesday afternoon as Marian Catholic senior point guard Ahron Ulis committed to Iowa with an announcement on Twitter.
The 6-foot-2 Ulis, the younger brother of former McDonald's All-American and Kentucky standout Tyler Ulis, is headed to the Big Ten as the Hawkeyes offered Ahron in mid July and landed the commitment quickly after.
A finalist for Tyler during his recruitment in 2013 before he ended up with the Wildcats, Iowa and head coach Fran McCaffery will get a chance to coach the younger Ulis over the next few years. Iowa deserves credit for making an aggressive push for the underrated lead guard as they've been relatively quiet recruiting the Chicagoland area in recent years.
Since landing two area talents in the Class of 2015 in Isaiah Moss (Simeon) and Brandon Hutton (De La Salle), the Hawkeyes have been shut out of the Land of Lincoln for four consecutive recruiting classes as they've focused their efforts elsewhere.
But a commitment from Ulis and recent scholarship offers to Bloom senior center Martice Mitchell and area junior stars like Max Christie (Rolling Meadows) and Bryce Hopkins (Fenwick) could signal that the Hawkeyes are ready to make a bigger imprint in Illinois. Iowa also offered Whitney Young senior guard Tyler Beard but it's hard to say if Beard is still a priority recruit for the Hawkeyes after the commitment from Ulis.
With an uptempo offense and a Round of 32 appearance in last season's NCAA tournament, Iowa has some intriguing things to pitch to recruits as it'll be interesting to see if they continue to recruit the Chicagoland area over the next few classes.
One of the area’s most accomplished players the past two seasons, Ulis helped lead Marian Catholic to a final four in Peoria in Class 3A as a sophomore. Ulis followed up that season with a strong junior campaign and a solid spring and summer playing with Meanstreets in the Nike EYBL over the last several months.
C O M M I T T E D 🏁 pic.twitter.com/jVukTcWVEk— Ahron Ulis (@Lil_Ulis3) August 6, 2019
Putting up 18.3 points and 4.4 assists per game as a junior, Ulis captured MVP honors at the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic while leading Marian Catholic to the title at the event. An All-ESCC conference selection as a junior, the strong play of Ulis carried over to the offseason as he averaged 13.3 points, 4.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game in 18 games in the Nike EYBL.
While Ulis is a polished floor general with good assist-to-turnover numbers and an ability to attack off the dribble, perimeter shooting could ultimately decide his upside at the college level. Inconsistent from three-point range over the last few months (30 percent three-point shooting in EYBL play), Ulis shot the ball better in July while playing in the Peach Jam as he was 34 percent from distance over five games at the event. The sample size is small, but Ulis showed improved confidence with the long ball as that will be something to monitor during his senior season.
Marian Catholic should remain a major contender in the ESCC and beyond for the upcoming 2019-20 season as Ulis and fellow senior guard Elijah Jones will be one of the state’s better backcourts. Jones, a recent pledge to Western Illinois, should alleviate some of the burden placed on Ulis while head coach Mike Taylor has plenty of other talented weapons surrounding the duo.
Despite being the younger brother of an NBA player, Ulis hasn't received significant national recruiting attention the past several years. But if Ahron emerges as a late-blooming prospect like his older brother Tyler, then Iowa will look smart for taking advantage of and being one of the only high-major programs to seriously recruit him.