When discussing the newest Iowa basketball recruit, Chicago three-star point guard Ahron Ulis, Joe Henricksen always comes back to one word ...
"There is just so much substance to him," said Henricksen, who's been an Illinois basketball authority for 25 years as publisher of the City/Suburban Hoops report. "He is a coach’s dream, as far as coachability, as far as what he means to your team as a leader. All the intangibles are there. And he's a winner."
Ulis became Iowa's first commitment in the 2020 class on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes offered him in late July, after he performed well at the 2019 Nike Peach Jam. He picked Iowa over New Mexico, DePaul, Illinois State and a host of other mid-major programs.
The 6-foot-2 point was long considered a fringe high-major prospect before Iowa saw enough to offer him in July. With 13 roster spots to fill, high-major programs can't land only no-brainer talents every year. So, schools like Iowa have to evaluate smartly from this group.
And Henricksen thinks they have with Ulis.
"People are too hung up maybe on the lack of flash," Henricksen said. "He’s not a big-time athlete. But he’s bigger now, he’s 6-2 — legit. He’s strong and he knows how to play. He’s got a poise and patience at a position where you need it, while still being able to play at a pretty fast pace. So he just knows how to play. He gets it.
"He just has so much to him. I think he’s going to adapt quickly. I think Iowa has done a good job of targeting guys like him, and I think he’s better than the national people or the rankings would suggest."
As a junior at Marian Catholic, Ulis averaged 18.3 points, 4.4 assists, three rebounds and 1.7 steals per game, according to MaxPreps. Henricksen said his mid-range and pull-up game is solid. He can pass well, too, and he makes his teammates better.
Ulis needs to continue to improve his 3-point shot. But there's nothing wrong with his mechanics, Henricksen said; it's about repetition now.
"Instincts are hard to get better. Feet are hard to get better. Passing is hard to get better," Henricksen said. "But shooting-wise, more or less, if people are going to put in the time and their mechanics aren’t too flawed, they’re going to be just fine."
Ulis is a consensus three-star prospect. 247Sports ranks him No. 204 overall in 2020 and No. 41 among point guards. Rivals also thinks he's the No. 41 point guard in 2020.
Here's what some other recruiting contacts have told the Register about Ulis:
Simeon head coach Rob Smith calls Ulis a "solid guard."
Team Rose/Curie coach Jerrell Oliver: "I like him. I think he is a very good, underrated basketball player — for real."
College assistant coach: "Good situation for him, will have veteran shooters/scorers around him early in his career. ... Physical and heady pass-first (point guard)."
College assistant coach: "I think he's pretty good. Very undervalued (in my opinion)."
College assistant coach: "I love Ulis. ... Average shooter but underrated athlete and knows how to play. He can play in the Big Ten."
College assistant coach: "Good lead guard who can create for others and make open 3s. ... Tough and loves to compete. I think it’s a great get for Iowa."
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
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