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Keith Taylor: Calipari says Tyler Ulis will excel in NBA; Cats to play twice in New York next season

John Calipari thinks Tyler Ulis will enjoy a successful career and credits Isaiah Thomas for paving the way for the former Kentucky point guard and other undersized players seeking a career at the next level.

Thomas, a 5-foot-9 guard for the Boston Celtics, averaged 22.2 points, 6.3 assists and three rebounds per game this past season. Thomas proved that size doesn’t matter when it comes to playing at the next level, a good sign for Ulis, projected to be a first-round pick in the draft.

Tyler Ulis  is participating in the NBA Combine this weekend (UK Athletics Photo)

Tyler Ulis is participating in the NBA Combine this weekend (UK Athletics Photo)

“I like where Tyler (Ulis) sits,” Calipari said. “Now, I’ll say it again, there are teams that won’t take Tyler because he’s 5-9. What helped Tyler’s position? Isaiah Thomas in Boston. He’s 5-9 (and) absolutely carried Boston. When he played well, they won. When he didn’t play well, they lost. Five-nine, a little sturdier, but for Tyler, it helped him. So now, any team that was afraid is going to give him a second look. And I think he’s going to be fine. I’d like him to be on a better team, because with better players, I think he’s even better. You put him with really good players, they’re going to want to play with him.”

Ulis, along with former teammates Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere and Marcus Lee, are taking part in the NBA Combine through Sunday in Chicago. Ulis, Murray and Labissiere have hired an agent and declared for next month’s draft, while Lee and Isaiah Briscoe have until May 25 to stay in the draft or return next season.

Calipari said the new draft rule has been “unbelievable” and beneficial to the players.

“The decisions we make should be for these kids, and I think that was for the kids,” he said. “That’s why I want my kids to go the full monty, try it, see what you want to do, make sure it’s what you want to do, and then go for it.”

Back to Brooklyn

Kentucky will make two trips to the Big Apple next season.

The Wildcats, who will play Michigan State in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, will take on Hofstra at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Dec. 11 as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival.

“We are very excited to return to the Barclays Center this upcoming season to play Hofstra,” Calipari said. “The Barclays Center is one of the premier venues in the country and a favorite of our fans. This will be our fourth game in Barclays since it opened and all three previous games the Big Blue Nation has made it feel like a home away from home. We expect the same this year.”

Culture change

Former University of Kentucky signee Lindsay Corsaro said in an interview with ESPNW this week that a “culture change” resulted in her decision to withdraw from her letter-of-intent to play for the Wildcats. Corsaro, a McDonald’s All-American guard from Indianapolis, was granted her release by UK Hoops coach Matthew Mitchell.

Corsaro said players “who didn’t fall in line with that culture left,” resulting in a mass exodus of players and coaches from the program since last fall. Corsaro, who added the departure of three coaches from last season also influenced her decision to play for another school, committed to play for Mitchell when she was a sophomore in high school.

“He wants what’s best for me and that shows what kind of person he is,” she said in the interview. “I believe he’s a great guy. It’s just been bad timing how everyone was leaving.”

Bringing the House

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops has completed his coaching staff for next season with the hiring of former Florida International defensive coordinator Matt House as inside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator.

With the addition of House to the staff, Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot will make a switch and coach the outside linebackers.

“I’m very excited to bring Matt into the program,” Stoops said. “He brings a wealth of experiences from the NFL and college football. I’ve spoken before about how I like having coaches with defensive coordinator experience in the staff room and Matt has that as well.”

Stoops also interviewed former Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood for the opening, but Hood chose to stay at Charlotte, where he serves as assistant head coach.

Bucs sign Noah Spence

Tampa Bay signed former Eastern Kentucky defensive end and second-round draft pick Noah Spence on Thursday.

Spence was the 39th overall selection in the draft and is expected to contribute next season. Spence played two seasons at Ohio State before transferring to Eastern Kentucky last year.

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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