The Iowa basketball program attempted to recruit five-star point guard Tyler Ulis when he came out of Chicago’s south suburbs a few years ago.
It failed despite establishing a strong relationship with Ulis’ family. But those efforts finally paid dividends Tuesday.
Ahron Ulis, younger brother of Tyler, became the Hawkeyes’ first verbal commitment for the 2020 recruiting class when he announced plans to attend Iowa.
Ahron Ulis is a 6-foot-2, 175-pound point guard who averaged 18.3 points, 4.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals while leading Chicago Heights Marian Catholic to a third-place finish in the Illinois Class 3A state tournament last season.
He scored 45 points in Marian’s two games in the state tournament and already has recorded more than 1,000 points in his high school career.
“I wanted to play at that level my entire life, but I also wanted to make sure I found the right fit for me at that level,” Ulis told the Chicago Sun-Times after making his commitment. “I knew I would find the right place and right fit for me, and Iowa is that for me.”
He admitted that his family’s previous relationship with Iowa and head coach Fran McCaffery played a role in his decision. The Hawkeyes were among the first schools to offer a scholarship to Tyler Ulis, who went on to become the SEC Player of the Year at Kentucky and has played 133 games in the NBA.
“My dad (James) did know coach McCaffery pretty well, but I’ve also watched Iowa and their playing style fits me so well,” Ahron told the Sun-Times. “I could see what they do, how they play and I see how I fit.”
Despite being six inches taller than his more heralded brother, Ahron is rated as only the 204th best recruit nationally by 247Sports and is not ranked among the top 150 in the country by Rivals.com. He chose Iowa over offers from DePaul, Illinois State, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Tulane, Siena, Toledo, South Dakota and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
However, Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said he could see in last year’s state tournament that Ahron had evolved into a Big Ten caliber prospect.
He said the senior-to-be is “extremely coachable” and is a winner. Marian went 27-5 last season and won 28 games the previous year.
“Ahron is the ideal point guard and such a good match with Iowa,” Taylor said in the Sun-Times article. “I think Iowa has done a great job with their point guards and Ahron has the same mindset of those past Iowa point guards. I just think he’s a higher level than what they’ve had and will flourish there.”
The Hawkeyes have at least three scholarships available for recruits in the 2020 class and could have as many as four or five depending on whether senior Jordan Bohannon ends up playing this season.
They are expected to add at least one big man and one wing player.
Oskaloosa High School 7-footer Xavier Foster, generally considered to be the top instate prospect and their No. 1 target, narrowed his list of schools to five on Monday, listing the Hawkeyes along with Iowa State, Baylor, Virginia Tech and Providence.