UK Men's Basketball

Hoop Fest notes: Analyst advises discouraged UK fans to give Labissiere more time

UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton, top, battled for a loose ball with Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere on Thursday. UCLA won, 87-77.
UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton, top, battled for a loose ball with Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere on Thursday. UCLA won, 87-77. Tribune News Service

It was here, one year ago, that Skal Labissiere delivered what might have been the best performance of his high school basketball career.

A few weeks after officially signing with the University of Kentucky, Labissiere came to the Marshall County Hoop Fest and scored 33 points against national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Va.).’s Evan Daniels was one of several recruiting analysts in the gym that night.

“That was one of the better high school performances I have seen. And just thinking back on it — it’s still impressive,” Daniels said this weekend. “He had a heck of a game and dominated in pretty much all facets. He showed it all. Offensively, defensively — anything you wanted from him, he did.”

That game was one of the first steps toward Labissiere earning the No. 1 overall ranking for the class of 2015. He went on to impress during the postseason all-star circuit and entered his freshman season as the projected No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft.

By those lofty standards, the first eight games of Labissiere’s college career have been a disappointment. The 6-foot-11 forward is averaging 12.0 points and 3.9 rebounds so far this season, 4.0 points and 1.5 rebounds over his last two games.

“We’re eight games into the season. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Daniels said. “Obviously, Skal hasn’t performed to the level that most were expecting. And he might need a little more time than I even realized. Some of that is the lack of strength, which isn’t allowing him to be too physical. But I think some of it is probably a little mental. I’m sure he’s lost a little confidence the past two games.

“But, keep in mind, a few games ago he went for 26 points against NJIT. Obviously they didn’t have the size that some of these other teams do, but he has the ability.”

It’s worth noting that Labissiere played an abbreviated schedule last season after a transfer flap led to him being ruled ineligible to compete for his new high school. He played only one game as a junior after suffering a serious back injury.

Anybody who’s giving up on Skal right now — that would be the worst possible thing you can do. Because that kid is too talented.

Evan Daniels, recruiting analyst

Daniels said Labissiere still possesses an “elite” offensive skill set and pointed out that even his widely panned performance against UCLA last week was not without its positives.

“If you watched the UCLA game — even though he had a bad game, let’s be blunt — he still flashed a lefty hook over his right shoulder,” Daniels said. “There’s not many post players in the country who can do that move with their off hand, and show that kind of touch. He’s going to have to get more physical. He’s going to have to get a little stronger. He’s got to show some fight.

“I think, in time, he will. But he probably needs more time than a lot of us realized.”

Daniels’ message to UK fans: Give Skal that time.

“Anybody who’s giving up on Skal right now — that would be the worst possible thing you can do. Because that kid is too talented.”

Calipari at Hoop Fest

John Calipari made it to Marshall County for the final day of Hoop Fest on Sunday. He watched top targets John Petty and Jarred Vanderbilt, who both already have UK scholarship offers, as well as Trevon Duval and Billy Preston, two other class of 2017 standouts on the Wildcats’ radar.

All quiet

John Calipari watched Trevon Duval on Sunday, but Duval told reporters Saturday that he hasn’t heard from anyone at UK in recent weeks.

The 6-foot-4 prospect — originally from Delaware — is considered the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2017 and listed Arizona, Baylor, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse and Villanova as the main schools recruiting him.

Duval said he’s nowhere close to a college decision, so UK still has plenty of time to show more interest in his recruitment.

Recruiting success

Former UK player Scott Padgett is burning up the recruiting trail as the head coach at Samford.

Padgett has done especially well recruiting in his old home of Lexington. Three players on Samford’s roster were high school standouts in the city: Darius Jones-Gibson (Tates Creek), Christen Cunningham (Henry Clay) and Matt Rose (Lexington Christian).

“Scott has done a great job being aggressive on the recruiting trail, but it’s not just him. It’s his staff, too,” Daniels said. “They’ve really targeted Lexington and primarily because Scott’s a big name there. Everybody knows Scott Padgett there. They have another guy on staff, Zach Newton, who played at (Lexington) Catholic and he knows the area really well, too.”

Padgett was at Hoop Fest to see his class of 2016 signee, Justin Hopkins, who scored 28 points Saturday, tallied 35 points and 10 rebounds Sunday and was one of the most impressive players of the weekend.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats