Skal Labissiere draft preview: ‘I’m a pretty tough kid if you look at my history’

Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere (1) got loose for a dunk over Missouri forward Kevin Puryear (24) on Jan. 27 in Lexington.
Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere (1) got loose for a dunk over Missouri forward Kevin Puryear (24) on Jan. 27 in Lexington. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

About Labissiere

The 6-foot-11 forward from Haiti averaged 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor as a freshman. … He led the Cats with six blocks as UK broke an NCAA Tournament record with 15 blocks in an NCAA Tournament win against Stony Brook. … The consensus five-star recruit was the No. 1 overall center in the 2015 class by both Rivals and Scout and the No. 2 center by 247Sports. ... He was rated as the No. 3 overall player by Scout, No. 4 overall by Rivals, No. 7 by 247Sports and the No. 11 overall player by ESPN. … Labissiere survived the earthquake in his home country of Haiti in 2010 before moving to the United States.

What analysts are saying

Chad Ford, ESPN: “The question is: Does he know how to play basketball? Does he have a feel for the game? Does he have the toughness to play in the NBA? Those are all huge questions … you start to look at Skal and say, ‘Look, if Skal hits he could be Channing Frye. He might even be better than Channing Frye.’ And if that’s the case he’s worth gambling even if it ends up being that he can’t play. … How he pans out as a player, I really think anybody that says they know is guessing. I think so much of it is going to have to be about his maturity and mental development and whether that can click, because the skills are there.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: “High-risk, high-reward. Labissiere was the second-best prospect at worst at the start of the season, and No. 1 in the eyes of some execs, and had a bad start that caused his draft stock to plummet. … An encouraging finish to the season helped. Labissiere has so many raw skills that he becomes so tempting at this stage (late lottery).

Paul Coro, The Arizona Republic: “His fluid movement, soft touch and coachable demeanor are enough for many teams to look at Labissiere as a stretch power forward who could also defend guards in pick-and-rolls and protect the rim eventually.”

What Labissiere is saying

Players’ Tribune (June 20): “I visited Kentucky, and it was just a different place. I saw how they worshipped basketball there, and I wanted to be a part of that. … I didn’t have the easiest freshman season at Kentucky. But I learned a lot about life, about myself and about my game that I know has prepared me for the next level.”

The Arizona Republic (June 13): “Some people say I’m soft but that’s something I’m still learning how to do. How to be physical. How to play lower. I think, with time, that’s going to come. … I feel like people are underestimating me a little bit but I like that. It makes me work even harder and I know how good I can be so it doesn’t really bother me. … I think I’m a pretty tough kid if you look at my history. Not many have been through what I’ve been through and are still following their dreams. I think I’m pretty tough.”


Los Angeles Times (June 10): “I think I’ll be a four [power forward] because of my versatility, both on offense and defense. I can shoot the basketball, score inside, run the floor really well, block shots, guard small defenders.”

Hoops Hype (May 31): “I think I have one of the highest upsides in the draft. In two or three years, I think I can be the best player in this draft. I’m still working. … By the end of the year (at Kentucky), the game became easier. But definitely in the middle of the season, my confidence was tested and a little bit shaken. I definitely had to keep working and at the end of the season everything was better. … Coach Cal did a really good job at getting us ready for the next level. His coaching style, I think, is going to make it easier for us for whatever we find in the NBA next.”

What Coach Cal is saying

“People would look at Skal and say, ‘Well, he had a disappointing year.’ No he didn’t. No he didn’t. We all had to look at where he started and then where he finished. The best thing that they like about Skal right now: He never gave up. He did not quit. It was extremely hard, and he finished at his best. … I was trying to use the blueprint of Karl Towns and Anthony Davis. Guess what? That lesson plan didn’t fit him. … Now these teams are looking at Skal and saying, ‘You know what? He fought through Kentucky. He made it through. He didn’t use it as an excuse.”

Draft projections










Basketball Insiders



CBS Sports









NBA.com Consensus



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