The underground current of speculation about Skal Labissiere's college eligibility broke to the surface Wednesday as ESPN.com reported that Kentucky's highly touted freshman big man had not been cleared to play by the NCAA.
When asked if the NCAA had declared Labissiere eligible, the player's guardian, Gerald Hamilton, said, "Not yet. We're just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions."
Hamilton echoed the assurances UK has given about Labissiere eventually being eligible.
"They haven't cleared him, but we're sticking with our faith," Hamilton told ESPN.com. "There's no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people."
UK Athletics spokesman Eric Lindsey said that the school would not comment on any player's eligibility until the first regular-season game, which is against Albany on Nov. 13. There is no deadline for when the NCAA might make a determination on a player's eligibility, he said.
"Everyone has been practicing," Lindsey said.
Labissiere's eligibility has been a topic of wide-spread speculation in the recruiting world.
"There's a lot of talk of Skal's situation and eligibility dating back a year or two years ago," said Evan Daniels, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com. "I don't think it's necessarily a big story yet. If he hasn't been cleared a month from now, then it's a big story."
Daniels noted that Labissiere is not alone among basketball prospects whose eligibility is still in question at this point.
"I don't think it's time to sound the alarms yet if you're a Kentucky fan. But it's certainly a situation you pay close attention to over the next couple weeks."
Speculation about eligibility has centered on Labissiere's relationship with Hamilton, who helped the player immigrate to the United States from his native Haiti. After coming to this country, Labissiere attended two different high schools and played for three different summer programs.
Keith Easterwood, a former AAU coach based in Memphis, told CBSSports.com last year that Hamilton sought to profit off players.
"He wanted to talk," Easterwood told CBSSports.com of a conversation he said he had with Hamilton. "And one of the things he asked me was, 'How can I make money off of a basketball player?'"
According to CBSSports.com, Easterwood considered Hamilton someone who fit into the category of "hobos, heroes and street-corner clowns."
Hamilton, who runs a 501(c)(3) foundation called Reach Your Dreams, could not be reached for comment. A message left on his telephone voice mail led to an email from Lindsey, who said Hamilton was unavailable. Hamilton wanted future requests for interviews to go through UK, Lindsey said.
Labissiere isn't the first UK player in recent seasons to have his eligibility in limbo as pre-season practice began. The same was true for freshmen John Wall and Enes Kanter in 2009 and 2010, respectively. In both cases, questions about amateurism or improper benefits jeopardized the players' eligibility.
Ultimately, the NCAA ruled Wall eligible, although he had to sit out the season's first game and pay back costs linked to traveling expenses. Kanter, who had played for a professional team in his native Turkey, was ruled ineligible and never wore a Kentucky uniform.
During a 17-minute speech at the 2015 Wildcat Tipoff Luncheon in Louisville on Wednesday, UK Coach John Calipari did not mention Labissiere's eligibility. There was not a question-and-answer session after his talk, and the UK coach left immediately after speaking.
A luncheon audience of about 800 heard Calipari liken Labissiere to Karl-Anthony Towns.
"I'm all over him like I was Karl," Calipari said. "He can be the No. 1 pick, so I'm going to drive him."
For now, "Skal's got a ways to go," the UK coach said.
Calipari and Labissiere have expressed confidence that the player will play for Kentucky.
"I will play this year," Labissiere said in early September. "That's all I have to say."
When asked why he was so confident of playing, he said, "We just have a good feeling about it. I will play this year."
Meanwhile, Labissiere can practice with UK players while waiting for a ruling from the NCAA.