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Marian Catholic celebrate after beating Bloom 61-58 for the McDipper Tournament Championship, Saturday, Febuary 29th, 2012 in Richton Park. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
The anonymous experts behind some high school basketball message boards had plenty of advice and rumors about Marian Catholic basketball star Tyler Ulis transferring after his freshman and sophomore seasons to schools with bigger hoops traditions.
Twitterers even “reported” he was attending national power Simeon in October.
There was no doubt he was frustrated with team records of 13-17 and 15-13 his first two seasons on the Spartans varsity. But, he said, he didn’t tell anyone he wanted out of the Chicago Heights school.
“That was just people talking around,” Ulis said. “People wanted me to go to certain places. I just stuck it out and wanted to stay here with my team. I love my friends on and off the court.
“Now, people see we’re winning now — and that’s always good.”
Life is good for Ulis and the Spartans. Coach Mike Taylor’s squad has developed into one of those teams that can be mentioned in the same breath with the powerhouses.
The Spartans head into the 2013 portion of their schedule with a 13-1 mark after winning the McDipper Tournament on Saturday for the first time in school history in their 37th appearance in the tournament.
While the 5-foot-8 Ulis dazzled in the tournament — including a 29-point outburst in the title game against 2011 champion Bloom — to win the MVP honor, he is not a one-man show.
St. Francis de Sales transfer Terron Parham scored 10 points in the fourth quarter of a 61-52 semifinal victory over Seton. Ki-Jana Crawford was a steady scorer, rebounder and assist man who had nine steals in the four games in Richton Park. Kevin Phllips was an inside presence who scored 15 in the 69-52 first-round victory over Rich Central. Joshua Cohn scored 11 in the first round and missed most of the rest of the tournament because of an injured right ankle.
Chris Austin is a three-point threat and defensive presence and John Oliver, who was born without a left hand, plays an aggressive game and came up with a steal with 27 seconds left against Bloom to help seal the 61-58 victory.
“This is the halfway point for us and we want to prove to everybody that we can make some noise, and that’s what we did,” Oliver said. “We all love each other. We’re like brothers. We want to go downstate and try to get it done.”
There is a lot of work to be done before that happens. The Spartans get back on the court Friday hosting Marmion and have games against Providence, Quincy, Brother Rice and several East Suburban Catholic Conference wars to go through before the postseason.
For the next day or two they can savor the historic finish to the 2012 portion of the schedule.
Ulis lived in Lima, Ohio, with his mother but would come to the McDipper Tournament when he visited his father, James. He was ranked by some as the best eighth grader in Ohio when he moved in with James in the south suburbs and entered Marian Catholic. He relished being able to lead his team to the McDipper title.
“I used to come here when I was a kid and watch players like (Thornton’s) Reggie Smith play. I never knew I would someday come here and win it,” Ulis said. “It means a lot to me. My dream came true.”