Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere was drafted with the 28th overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Phoenix made the selection for Sacramento after a trading the pick to the Kings earlier in the night.
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 at UK.
“I’ve been picturing this moment my whole life,” Labissiere told ESPN during the draft. “I’m very thankful to be a part of the NBA.”
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Labissiere was projected as a late lottery pick by some NBA pundits but fell outside of the top 14 picks. He joins DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo and Willie Cauley-Stein as other former Wildcats currently on the Kings roster.
“I think it's going to be a good fit learning from DeMarcus Cousins,” Labissiere said. “Willie Cauley-Stein is there and I know him pretty well. Rajon Rondo, who's a really good point guard. I think they're going to help me a lot.”
Waiting to hear his name called — and almost slipping out of the first round and guaranteed money — was “tough at first.” Now, though, Labissiere is “excited to get to work.”
UK Coach John Calipari kept Labissiere’s spirits high as they waited.
“‘You're good. You're going to be fine. You should use that as fuel to get better,’” Labissiere said of Calipari’s encouragement. “He told me how good I was.”
Before the draft, Labissiere said he learned a lot from his one season at Kentucky.
“I think I have one of the highest upsides in the draft,” he told Hoops Hype in late May. “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.”
Ahead of Thursday, UK Coach John Calipari spoke about the progress that Labissiere made at UK.
“People would look at Skal and say, ‘Well, he had a disappointing year.’ No he didn’t. No he didn’t,” Calipari said. “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.”
Labissiere entered his freshman season as a potential top-three pick, if not higher.
“High-risk, high-reward,” NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper said of Labissiere before the draft. “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.”