In all its regal men's basketball history, Kentucky has never had a big man who can do all the things Skal Labissiere can.
Like say "Go Big Blue!" in Creole.
"Ale gwo Blue," the Haitian big man said, laughing at the request.
Or dazzle his teammates by conducting cell phone calls fluently in any of three languages — Creole, French or English.
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"You can always tell who Skal is talking to when he answers the phone," says UK guard Mychal Mulder. "He'll answer, and you're like 'OK, French, here we go.'"
Whatever happens on the basketball court this winter, the 2015-16 UK season will carry distinct accents all its own.
Kentucky's roster has gone international. It includes the 6-foot-11 Labissiere (Port-au-Prince, Haiti) and 7-footer Isaac Humphries (Sydney, Australia), plus Canadian guards Mulder (Windsor, Ontario) and Jamal Murray (Kitchener, Ontario). At mid-semester, it's possible that power forward Tai Wynyard (Auckland, New Zealand) will give UK a fifth member of its hoops foreign legion.
In 1957-58, when the Fiddlin' Five won the fourth and final of Adolph Rupp's NCAA championships, the Cats featured 12 native Kentuckians on a roster of 14.
This is not your grandpappy's UK basketball.
What the composition of the current Kentucky team should provide the UK players is — wait for it, wait for it — an unusually rich educational and cultural experience. As if that were the point of going to college or something.
"It's cool," Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis says, "to have so many different nationalities on the team."
Adds Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins: "It's neat to meet people from Australia, Haiti, Canada. It's really neat."
Already, the Wildcats have added some meaningful Australian slang to their vocabularies courtesy of Humphries.
"I've got 'friends,'" says Marcus Lee, "but he's got 'mates.'"
Adds Mulder: "Isaac says we've got 'heaps' of things. It's funny to hear him talk."
As for Labissiere, Kentucky freshman Charles Matthews, a Chicago product, says the big man is trying to teach him some French. "It's tough," Matthews says. "I couldn't get the accent down."
Hawkins, an in-state junior from Richmond, says he grew up following Kentucky basketball from the time he was a little boy. Early 2000s Wildcats Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans were Hawkins' first UK heroes.
Conversely, Labissiere says he'd never heard of Kentucky basketball until he left Haiti for the United States after the devastating 2010 earthquake. "In Haiti, we don't watch college basketball at all," he said. "We just watch the NBA."
Labissiere says he first became exposed to the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2011 Final Four, then really became enamored of UK watching Anthony Davis lead the Cats to the 2012 NCAA title. "That was when I was really impressed by Kentucky," he says.
Meanwhile, Mulder got his introduction to Kentucky basketball when Calipari took his second UK team to Windsor, Ontario, to play exhibition games in advance of the 2010-11 season. The guard went to both games with his dad.
"(Kentucky) played the University of Windsor in my home city," Mulder said. "It was interesting to see such a highly touted team (as UK) in my city."
In Australia, Humphries says there was occasionally an American college hoops contest shown on TV. "They usually air games that have an Australian in it," Humphries said. "There were a lot of St. Mary's (think Patty Mills and other Australian stars for the Gaels) games on."
It's funny, if UK is to hang its ninth NCAA championship banner in 2016, it will be because a group of individuals drawn from different countries and diverse cultures live out an American sports cliche.
In a hat tip to Labissiere and his French, Il n'y a pas «je» dans l'équipe.
Translation: There's no 'I' in team.
"I love the way," says Lee, "we are all so different but come together to figure things out."