Former Prospect all-stater LaTulip started broadcasting as a way to stay close to basketball

Basketball in his heart

Living in the heart of one of the Big Ten’s biggest rivalries is an interesting place for Mike LaTulip.

“When I go to the gym in the morning there’s a lot of Purdue and a lot of Indiana,” LaTulip said with a laugh about the workout gear he sees in his north suburban Indianapolis home of Carmel with his wife, Isabelle.

That could be a tough spot for the Prospect High School boys basketball all-time scoring leader since he also played guard for Illinois for three years. Especially since LaTulip has become a prominent fixture in the coverage and analysis of Fighting Illini basketball.

But while some might believe LaTulip bleeds the proverbial orange and blue, he’s also learned he can’t just lead with his heart over his head in his various media responsibilities about the team ranked 14th in the country going into today’s noon visit by Rutgers to the State Farm Center.

So whether it’s on pre- and postgame radio shows in Champaign, podcasts, Twitter/X or as a color analyst for the Big Ten Network, which he had the opportunity to do in late December, LaTulip is not going to be an Illini homer away from home.

“To be an analyst there has to be objectivity to what you do,” LaTulip said. “You’ve got to be fair and fair can go both ways. That’s helped me to call a game and analyze and break down what I see.

“If it’s the truth, it’s the truth, and there are things you have to break down in good times and bad times. You try your best to be as fair as you can be.”

LaTulip joked that he’s not coming at people as someone whose jersey is hanging in the State Farm Center rafters or with the cache of other ex-Illini analysts that include Doug Altenberger, Deon Thomas, Stephen Bardo, Trent Meacham and Sean Harrington. After an all-state senior year at Prospect, LaTulip took the challenge of going to Illinois as a preferred walk-on and scored 56 points in 44 games from 2012-15. He used his final year of eligibility at Wright State and averaged 7 points a game in 2016-17.

Seeing LaTulip share his basketball knowledge with others is nothing new for ex-Prospect coach John Camardella. Although LaTulip half-jokingly called himself “a head case” at Prospect, the two have remained close and Camardella served as the minister for LaTulip’s 2022 wedding.

“He’s always had that educated bone in his body,” said Camardella, who returned to the Knights’ sideline as an assistant coach this season. “He really has an incredible ability to translate the game to other people. What he’s doing doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Even if the path to get there wasn’t conventional.

Something with basketball

Mike LaTulip knew he wanted to be involved in basketball in some way as his collegiate career wound down at Wright State. He tried coaching at junior college powerhouse Florida Southwestern State in Fort Myers.

“The coaching life was a little too nomadic for me,” LaTulip said. “I needed more stability in my life.”

  Mike LaTulip is Prospect’s all-time leading scorer and was an all-stater as a senior. Mark Welsh/

But he still needed basketball as he spent two years in Austin, Texas, and a year in Nashville before settling on Carmel, so he and Isabelle, whom he met at Wright State, could be closer to their families. His full-time job is with a start-up recruiting agency that helps find assistants and support staff members for CEOs.

LaTulip wasn’t completely done with coaching and he was also the general manager in 2020 and 2021 for Illinois’ “House of Paign” alumni team in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) that has been featured on ESPN. LaTulip put together game plans and scouting reports.

“It immersed me in film and that definitely sparked something,” LaTulip said. “Once I got to do podcasts and film review, that’s where I really wanted to live. But I didn’t know if broadcasting was possible when you see Robbie Hummel (Purdue) and Jim Jackson (Ohio State) and other guys with illustrious college careers.

“I got enough good feedback that I could tell myself, ‘Hey, you know what you’re talking about,’ but I don’t try to make my playing career out to be something it wasn’t.”

That positive feedback also came from insights he would share on Twitter/X. He tried his own podcast and then was invited to go on Illini Inquirer, where he has done a weekly podcast and film review with Jeremy Werner and Derek Piper for the last three seasons.

LaTulip said his playing career does lend itself to see the total picture and the ups and downs players and teams endure. He finished in the top 10 in the Illinois Mr. Basketball voting after averaging 22 points a game as a Prospect senior, eventually earned a scholarship and was in and out of the playing rotation at Illinois and also was in and out of the starting lineup at Wright State.

“I have a unique perspective I can offer there without bringing it back to myself,” LaTulip said. “I understand why the eighth or ninth man may struggle to shoot the basketball because he knows he may only get one or two attempts a game.”

LaTulip also gets to dissect what’s ahead and what happened on WDWS radio in Champaign. He does an “In the Huddle” segment on the pregame show with Scott Beatty and Champaign News-Gazette and media legend Loren Tate, whom LaTulip said “is the best and still sharp” in his early 90s. LaTulip also does an hour-long postgame show with Evan Conn.

“From the moment I started listening to him I could sense he was up to something big,” Camardella said.

Such as opportunities with the Big Ten Network.

A potential calling card

In June, LaTulip was one of 16 ex-Big Ten athletes selected to participate in the Big Ten Network Experience in Chicago. LaTulip said it was an “immersive boot camp” of mock studio shows and color commentary for broadcasts to help identify potential up-and-coming talent in the industry.

The timing was perfect because two weeks later TBT approached LaTulip about doing color commentary. He sent them the reel from his mock game and wound up working two tournament games on ESPN Plus.

Then in October, he learned he would have the opportunity to do the color on the BTN broadcast of the Illinois-Fairleigh Dickinson game on Dec. 29 with Mike Hall, a Glenbard West graduate. LaTulip leaned on his film study and experience that included some fill-in work as an analyst on the Illini Radio Network alongside Brian Barnhart.

“It was a dream come true and a privilege to cover a game here,” LaTulip said. “My main goal for people watching my Big Ten Network debut is I didn’t want them to know it was my Big Ten Network debut.”

LaTulip said working with Hall and others such as veteran producer Bart Fox made the experience seem as if he had been calling games for years.

“He’s amazing, when you see him on studio shows or calling games, with the energy he brings,” LaTulip said of Hall. “As someone who is new to color commentary, that chemistry can come through.

“I never fathomed four or five years ago that I’d call a game on Big Ten Network, but when I got in that position it felt right and felt natural.”

LaTulip said he’s not big on 3-to-5 year plans, but doing more color commentary in the future is intriguing.

“The biggest piece of advice I got was to continue to put myself out there for any opportunity I can find,” LaTulip said. “You have to grind and find those opportunities, but it was encouraging to get that feedback and it gives you more confidence. I’m eager to continue to find those opportunities with BTN or TBT or anything I can find to hone my craft.”

Analyzing the Illini

Illinois guard Mike LaTulip (10) drops a pass back near Alabama State's Bobby Brown (5) in the second half in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Rick Danzl)

LaTulip was interested to see how Illinois would rebound from a disappointing home loss to Maryland when it hit the road to face struggling Michigan on Thursday night. It would also determine the tenor of the postgame show, which LaTulip joked he thought was easy when he first started during the 2021-22 season as the Illini were in the midst of a winning streak.

“The beauty is I’ve been doing it long enough now that if the guy hosting says, ‘We’re going to Jim from Mundelein,’ I go, ‘Oh, gosh’ and know exactly who it is because they only surface if it’s a disappointing loss,” LaTulip said. “You know when they’re going to be good, too. It’s been fun and some of the fans will test me.

“It’s super-reactive when you’re getting inundated with questions and you’ve got to analyze and break it down on the spot, which is a blast for me.”

It was tough to tell which direction the postgame show would go with 14 minutes to play and Illinois up by just 1 point. But a superb all-around performance by Coleman Hawkins led the way to an 88-73 victory and gave Illini fans a chance to gloat over improving to 7-0 in head-to-head matchups with Juwan Howard since he became Michigan’s coach.

Prospect graduate Mike LaTulip has developed a side career in broadcasting, in part because of his work in podcasting. His full-time job is with a start-up recruiting agency that helps find assistants and support staff members for CEOs. Photo courtesy of Mike LaTulip

LaTulip joked that he could only imagine what the shows would have been like when he was part of the team during the John Groce era that started with an NCAA Tournament appearance LaTulip’s freshman year but ended with Groce’s firing in 2017. Brad Underwood’s program now is headed toward a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. On Friday a federal judge granted star fifth-year senior Terrance Shannon Jr. a temporary restraining order to return to the team and begin playing again. Shannon was suspended indefinitely by the school in late December following his arrest on rape charges for an alleged incident in September.

“This team at full strength, it’s a Final Four-caliber team,” LaTulip said Thursday. “With the guys they currently have available (without Shannon), it’s still a top-four Big Ten team that can compete for the second weekend in the NCAA Tournament, and that has to be the goal.”

And regardless how long the season goes MIke LaTulip will call it as he sees it on the court from the Illini. Even if Purdue and Indiana fans might disagree.

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