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Tyler Ulis returns to Rupp this summer. This time he’ll be coaching former UK stars.

Nearly a decade after spending two seasons as John Calipari’s “coach on the floor” in Rupp Arena, former Kentucky basketball star Tyler Ulis will play a different role this summer.

Coach on the sidelines.

Ulis was named the head coach of the La Familia team — a squad stacked with UK basketball standouts from the Calipari era — for The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team summer showcase with games in Lexington next month.

This won’t be entirely new territory for Ulis, who spent the past two college basketball seasons as a student assistant on Calipari’s staff at Kentucky. This time, however, the former All-American point guard will be the man in charge of the UK-affiliated team on the Rupp court.

“I think just being around the program over the last two years — just helping out with Coach Cal and the young guys — it’s just fun. It’s fun for the fans. It’s good for these older guys to finally come back and play in front of these fans, and just get that Kentucky feel again,” Ulis said in a video released by the tournament Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m happy to be a part of it. Happy to coach these guys who I’ve played with, who are older than me, who I’ve played in the pros with. That’s going to be really important for me. Really special. And I think we’ll have a lot of fun.”

Ulis will be the head coach of a La Familia roster that already features 10 ex-Cats and has room for the possibility of two more late additions. The team so far includes Eric Bledsoe, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kellan Grady, Andrew Harrison, Doron Lamb, Daniel Orton, Nate Sestina, Marquis Teague, Reid Travis and James Young, all players who played under Calipari, who left Lexington in April after 15 years as UK’s head coach to take the same position at Arkansas.

Former Kentucky player Twany Beckham is the general manager of the team, and former UK teammate Jon Hood has already been named as one of the assistant coaches.

Ulis — a 5-foot-9 guard who quickly earned Calipari’s trust on the court — played for the Wildcats from 2014 to 2016 and earned All-American honors during his sophomore year before being selected with the No. 34 overall pick in the NBA draft.

Calipari said shortly after he was hired to coach the Razorbacks that he planned to bring Ulis to Fayetteville as part of his staff for the 2024-25 season, but no such formal announcement has been made.

Ulis did not graduate from UK in May, as was previously expected, though he could still complete his college studies over the next few months and join the Arkansas staff in time for the start of next season.

Calipari has already added former UK assistants Chin Coleman, Bruiser Flint and Chuck Martin to his first Razorbacks staff, in addition to hiring longtime Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne and bringing on his son, ex-Kentucky walk-on and grad assistant Brad Calipari, as another assistant coach.

Tyler Ulis served as a student assistant under John Calipari for the past two college basketball seasons.
Tyler Ulis served as a student assistant under John Calipari for the past two college basketball seasons.

What is The Basketball Tournament?

Often shortened to simply “TBT” — the summer basketball showcase is in its 11th year and features teams from around the country, often squads consisting of players with similar ties from their college days.

The UK team is branded “La Familia” — a commonly used nickname during the Calipari era — and Lexington will be one of eight host cities for the opening rounds of this year’s tournament.

Louisville will also host games in Freedom Hall, with a group of former Cardinals coached by Reece Gaines and dubbed “The Ville” taking part in the competition.

The games in Rupp Arena are scheduled for July 19-23, and tickets are already on sale via Ticketmaster.com. The semifinals and finals of the tournament are set for Aug. 2 and 4 in Philadelphia, with the members of the winning team splitting a $1 million prize.

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