2015 Kentucky target Labissiere working way back from working too hard

broberts@herald-leader.comJune 20, 2014 

— CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The first basketball recruit from the class of 2015 to receive a scholarship offer from Kentucky isn't anywhere close to making a college decision.

Skal Labissiere has had more important things to deal with over the past few months.

The 6-foot-10 native of Haiti — now playing in the Memphis area — sat out all but two games of his junior season of high school with a stress fracture in his back.

Labissiere just worked his way back onto the court in April, and he's been trying to get back into game shape ever since.

He has shown flashes of his basketball brilliance — a solid mixture of effective post moves and outside shooting touch — this week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp.

"I feel good," Labissiere said. "I'm still out of shape. But I'm getting back into the flow and into my rhythm — trying to go hard every day."

Going hard was what landed him on the sidelines late last year.

He played a strenuous summer schedule and then started working out — too much, admittedly — in preparation for his high school season. Labissiere played last year as a rail-thin post player, and he wanted to gain strength in hope of bolstering his inside presence.

"I worked so hard," he said. "It wasn't good for my back."

After multiple visits to the doctor, he was diagnosed with a stress fracture and shut down for the season. It didn't require surgery, but it did mean no basketball for more than four months.

Labissiere didn't enjoy watching from the sidelines, but he now realizes it was the best move for a career that he hopes will last a long time.

College coaches and recruiting analysts obviously agree that he has the talent to make that happen.

Scout.com ranks him as the No. 10 overall player in his class — that's despite missing his high school season — and many of the nation's top programs are staying in touch.

"He's versatile enough to where he can step out on the floor and shoot jump shots, but he's also pretty good on the block," said Scout.com's Evan Daniels. "He has a right jump hook, good touch around the basket, good set of hands. And he's very mobile; runs the floor really well."

Daniels said the first thing he noticed about Labissiere this week was that he has added some weight since last summer. The recruit told the Herald-Leader that he's put on about 15 pounds since last year's Top 100 Camp. The camp's official notes list him at 210 pounds.

Labissiere needs to add even more weight before he sees college competition, but Daniels praised the player for his hard work against larger foes.

"He definitely plays hard," he said. "I think he's gotten stronger. But he doesn't have a ton of weight on his frame, so it's hard for him to play physical. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for with his motor."

Kentucky offered Labissiere during his sophomore season after legendary Tennessee high school coach Terry Tippett gave his old acquaintance John Calipari a heads up on the unique prospect.

Calipari offered after the first viewing, and that interest hasn't waned.

Labissiere said the UK coach keeps in regular contact with his guardian, Gerald Hamilton, who is handling the college recruitment.

UK and Memphis have long been considered the favorites, but Labissiere said several new schools — such as North Carolina, Florida, Kansas and UNLV — have entered the mix in recent months.

He hasn't taken any campus visits outside of hometown Memphis, and he said he probably wouldn't plan any until he's finished with his summer schedule.

When asked if Kentucky would definitely get one of those visits, an indecisive "maybe" was the best Labissiere could muster.

"To be honest, I'm wide open right now," he said.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

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