Fate and 27 teams dealt Skal Labissiere a role no player wants at a professional draft. At the NBA Draft Thursday, he was that player who sits and waits for his name to be called.
As television cameras zoom in for close-ups, he can only watch as his peers step forward. In Labissiere’s case, four players even came out of the stands to accept congratulations. Two other picks weren’t even at the Barclays Center.
All the while, Labissiere sat with his family and UK Coach John Calipari. They waited. Finally, mercifully, the Phoenix Suns picked Labissiere with the 28th pick, then shortly thereafter a trade to Sacramento was announced.
“I know God has a plan for me,” Labissiere said. “That I was going to fall to the right place, the right team.”
Though philosophical, Labissiere acknowledged that it wasn’t easy to sit and wait, and sit and wait.
“It was tough at first,” he said. “One thing for all of us, now everything starts over. . . . I’m excited to get to work. And I know I have a bright future ahead of me.”
The day before the draft, Labissiere said he “firmly believed” he could be considered the best player in this draft five years from now. He said he wanted to be a Hall of Fame player.
When asked if the draft night experience shook that belief, Labissiere said, “I still believe it. I’m about to go to work. I’m going to control what I can control.”
Calipari also spoke of the draft as Day One of the future, not a crashing finale.
“It’s hard,” the UK coach said. “It was hard to sit through it. But, you know what? The greatest thing is it doesn’t matter where you were picked. You’re in. Now, you go prove you should have been picked earlier.”
Calipari even put the excruciating wait as a positive for UK’s program.
“The greatest thing about being in our program is you’re going to get your opportunity,” he said.
At Labissiere’s table in the so-called “green room,” which was actually at the foot of the stage, Calipari sat glumly with a blank expression on his face. But the UK coach did offer words of encouragement.
“Just saying that you’re good,” Labissiere said. “You’re going to be fine. . . . He told me how good I was.”
The Kings can give Labissiere a strong Kentucky connection with ex-Cats DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Rajon Rondo having played for Sacramento last season.
“He’s got brothers out there,” Calipari said.
Labissiere, who had been projected as high as the ninth pick, said he came to the draft prepared for anything. He spoke of bringing versatility on offense and defense to the Kings.
“I’m ready to go to work,” he said. “I’m not going to shy away from it. . . . I’m going to work really hard to put weight on (and) get stronger. That won’t be a problem for me.”