HIGHLAND, IN - Tyler Ulis sat courtside Sunday morning as games cruised by all around him. He decided rather than playing in his upcoming contest, he would rest his ailing shoulder.
Then his inner-competitor came out. Ulis couldn't let his Meanstreets teammates battle without him even though his injury hurt to the touch.
Ulis gutted it out and led the squad to another victory here at the Chicago Summer Jam. That heart and determination has helped him overcome a lack of height and attracted some of the nations's top college programs.
It's been a meteoric rise for the Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights) point guard since his breakout junior season. He entered last winter as a virtual unknown and skyrocketed into the upper half of most recruiting services' Top 100.
In February, Ulis reported holding scholarship offers from Iowa, Oregon State, DePaul and a few MAC schools. Since then, Michigan State, Florida, Purdue, Florida State and plenty of other high-majors have asked him to come lead their programs.
"It's been crazy," the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Ulis said. "I'm trying to narrow it down so we can see where I'll make my official visits to. We're going to wait until I'm done playing (this summer) completely so I can get some rest and collect my thoughts."
In late May, Ulis trimmed his list to DePaul, Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue and USC, in no particular order. The move did not mean he was limiting himself to those seven schools.
"I'm not locked into those because certain schools are going to step in late," Ulis said. "I still have an open mind with those. I released the seven because I didn't want the schools that were recruiting me that I pretty much knew I wasn't going to go to keep working on me. I didn't want to waste their time. I wanted them to be able to find somebody else."
Memphis, Miami and Missouri are among a group of schools that have stepped in with scholarship offers to Ulis this month. He's scheduled to play in Las Vegas this week and that could bring along more opportunities.
"I just try to not really focus on any of that right now," Ulis said of the recruiting process. "I'm just trying to go out and play and get better and let my dad deal with most of that stuff because it puts a lot of pressure on me and takes away from my game. I don't want to get caught up in everything."
Ulis jumped up to No. 41 nationally in the most recent Scout.com Top 100 for the Class of 2014. He's the 10th-ranked point guard in the country.
Along with increased exposure comes a public need to know when it comes to Ulis' future. Social media, recruiting services and others speculate on the latest develops, sometimes creating misinformation in the haste.
"I'm not leaning anywhere right now," Ulis said. "I don't know where I'm going yet. I honestly don't know where I'm going to go. I haven't really looked that much into any of the schools. I haven't looked at their rosters or taken a close look at the academics. So, we just have to sit down in August and start to work on it and see what I want to do."
Ulis retains four of his five official visits allowed by the NCAA after using one to see Oregon State. The Beavers are no longer in the race for his services.
"I plan on using all four but if I find out that I want to go somewhere before then I will just commit," Ulis said.
Ulis is focusing on a couple of key areas to help him determine where to attend college.
"I just look at the relationship with the coaches," he said. "I want to have a great relationship with them because you have to be able to trust that person for the four years you're going to be there. My parents want to make sure that the person they're sending me to has my best interest at hand.
"Then, it's the style of play. That's very important because I'm a small guard. I like to push the ball and get in the open floor."
Ulis is considering schools from a wide range of geographic locations. USC and Florida State would take him to different time zones from his Chicago home.
"It doesn't really matter right now," Ulis said. "It would be better to stay at home because my mom likes going to my games. My dad obviously likes to see me. But if somewhere far way fits me better than the closer schools then I'll go there."
Iowa and Michigan State are two programs pushing very hard for Ulis' commitment. Hawkeye Head Coach Fran McCaffery and his counterpart with the Spartans, Tom Izzo, watched him here and everywhere else this spring and summer.
"I love Iowa," Ulis said. "I love Coach McCaffery. We have a great relationship as well as a couple of the other coaches (Sherman Dillard and Andrew Francis) on the coaching staff. I trust them and I like where he's coming from. I like that he's trying to build a program. I like his energy and how he approaches things."
Ulis has visited Iowa City a few times.
"I like the town and the facilities," he said. "I went to one game and it was a great atmosphere."
With three staff members, including the head coach, devoting a lot of resources to landing Ulis, the Hawkeyes are making the point guard feel special.
"It's great," he said. "That's what builds the relationship. We've been talking for a while. They've been recruiting me for a while. It's nice to know that they want me that bad and I'm getting to know all of the coaches. I know I can trust them."
Michigan State also is receiving serious consideration from Minnesota's Tyus Jones, Scout.com's top-rated point guard and No. 2 player overall.
"I really haven't thought that much about that situation," Ulis said. "I think Tyus is going to wait it out anyway. I plan on committing sooner than him, I think. I want to commit before my high school season. I have a feeling that Tyus will wait it out longer than that. I'm just trying to not worry about any other recruits and see what I want to do first."
What if Ulis' commits to the Spartans and then Jones follows him to East Lansing?
"I'm not concerned with that," Ulis said. "I'm just going to go where I think it's best for me."
One could look at Ulis' list of schools and reasonably assume that Michigan State and Purdue hold an advantage over Iowa, Northwestern and others because of the recent success they've enjoyed. He doesn't view it that way.
"I really don't look at what a school has done in the past because I feel like if I go somewhere we should be able to win," Ulis said. "Certain schools are just missing certain pieces. So, I don't really look in the past because the past has nothing to do with what's going to happen in the future."
Ulis' exploits this spring and summer are made more amazing by the fact he's dealing with severe irritation to the AC joint in his right shoulder. He originally injured it at the EYBL session in Minnesota in late May, hurt it again in a car accident and then dinged it at the Peach Jam earlier this month.
"They're just telling me to go on how I feel because I didn't dislocated it or anything. It didn't pop out of place," he said. "Every time it gets irritated it swells up and I can't play. Any time anybody touches it, it hurts. I just need to rest it a little bit."
After this week in Vegas, Ulis is scheduled to attend a camp in early August. Then, he'll rest his shoulder and put his mind to work on his recruitment.
"It will be a gut feeling that I just have to take when I feel it," Ulis said of how he'll know where to go.