As incongruous as it sounds, Kentucky Coach John Calipari did not come to Wednesday's Media Day news conference to answer a lot of questions. Certainly not questions about the still-pending eligibility of freshman Skal Labissiere.
Calipari all but stonewalled questions about the big uncertainty hanging over UK's 2015-16 season. After saying there's nothing unusual about delays in NCAA approval of players' eligibility, Calipari tried to quickly return the news conference to purely basketball topics.
"I think my team will be fine," he said, "And you guys will figure it out when we go out there the first (game) and everybody has uniforms on. You'll know. They must have been cleared."
Calipari declined to say if the issue jeopardizing Labissiere's status was more like what affected John Wall in 2009-10 (sit out one exhibition game and one regular-season game) or Enes Kanter (sit out the entire 2010-11 season).
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"I'm fine," he said. "We'll see on the first game."
Then he added, "How did this become such a huge (issue). This became like a firestorm. ...
"I feel real good (about) what my team is going to look like on the first day. So let's move on to some basketball stuff."
Labissiere's guardian, Gerald Hamilton, acknowledged a week earlier what was widely suspected: the NCAA had not ruled on Labissiere's eligibility.
An AAU coach, Keith Easterwood, said this week that the NCAA wanted to learn from him if Hamilton had asked him about how to make money off of a player. In November, CBSSports.com reporter Gary Parrish wrote that Easterwood had said Hamilton had asked such a question.
When asked near the end of the 44-minute news conference about the guardian reportedly asking such a question, Calipari cut off the questioner.
"You're done," he said. That ended any further inquiries about Labissiere.
In an appearance on Parrish's Memphis-based radio show Tuesday evening, Easterwood said questions about Hamilton's motives extended far beyond a single inquiry about how to profit from a talented player.
"If half of what we've heard is true, it's an ugly story," Easterwood told Parrish.
Parrish agreed, saying the recruitment of Labissiere "left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths."
Hamilton sought funding for his 501(c)(3) foundation, Reach Your Dream.
"Multiple college coaches told me (Hamilton) either implied or put it right out there on Front Street, 'I'm going to need a donation for my foundation,'" Parrish said on the radio show.
He cited a story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that reported Memphis coach Josh Pastner told his staff via emails that the program could not make such a donation or try to arrange a donation through a third party.
"Whether the NCAA is ever going to be able to prove that he got anything, I don't have any idea ... ," Parrish said. "Do they have real reason to go after this? Absolutely. Because Gerald mishandled the entire process literally for years."
Hamilton has been unavailable for comment since he told an ESPN reporter last week that Labissiere had not been cleared.
At UK Media Day, Labissiere defended the integrity of his guardian, describing him as a caring person who provided him with a family in the United States.
"I don't think those people really know what they've done for me — my guardian, Gerald Hamilton, and his family," Labissiere said. "Taking me in from Haiti, I was a complete stranger and I wasn't even that good at basketball. They were just trying to help a kid, and I just so happened to work hard and do what I was supposed to do and became really good.
"I really appreciate them and love them because they really helped me to become the person that I am today and the basketball player that I am today. I'm very thankful for what they did for me."
Labissiere said he maintains a close relationship with Hamilton.
"We talk almost every day," he said. "Me and him and his wife. We talk. She's like a mom to me. They're like my American parents. We talk a good bit."
Labissiere said he talks to his parents in Haiti about two or three times a week.
"My family in Haiti and my family here — Gerald and his family — it's like one big family now," he said. "We're very comfortable with each other."
Labissiere expressed confidence that the NCAA would judge him eligible. "I expect to play by the first game of the season," he said.
Calipari did not warm to a question about how valuable, if not indispensable, Labissiere would be for Kentucky this season.
"He's going to be good and he is going to play this year so well," the UK coach said. "He's going to make jump hooks and jump shots."
With that, Calipari added an abrupt, "Next question."
His teammates described Labissiere as an impactful player, as might be expected for a player projected as a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
"A monster around the basket," Derek Willis said.
Fellow freshman Jamal Murray said Labissiere was "one of a kind."
Another freshman, Isaiah Briscoe, echoed the sentiment.
"Amazing ... ," he said. "He does some things I haven't seen anybody 7-foot do. It catches me by surprise. I'll process what he's done as I go back downcourt. Did he just do that?"
When asked if another UK player could provide the same presence and production as Labissiere, Briscoe said, "No, No. There's not even a chance."
Whether Labissiere himself can provide it will be decided by the NCAA.
As Parrish told his radio audience, "There's some stuff out there that's got to be resolved before that kid can suit up and play for Kentucky."