High School Basketball

Labissiere's guardian confident about recruit's eligibility at UK

Skal Labissiere
impressed all in his first game in Kentucky as a UK signee.
Skal Labissiere impressed all in his first game in Kentucky as a UK signee. Photo provided

BENTON — A few minutes after Skal Labissiere played his first game in Kentucky as a UK signee, his legal guardian stood on the court and spoke to reporters for nearly 30 minutes.

Gerald Hamilton, the man who brought Labissiere to the United States from Haiti four years ago and has been at the middle of his recruitment, declined to specifically address many of the negative stories that have been written about him in recent months, but he was clear about one thing.

Hamilton is not at all worried about Labissiere's eligibility at Kentucky.

"We had conversations with Kentucky," Labissiere's guardian said. "And we shared everything that we thought might possibly be a conflict with the NCAA. And I'm pretty sure they were confident after that. They were like, 'Is that all?'

"I just got the vibe that, 'Hey, you don't have anything to worry about.'"

A recent CBS Sports report quoted an AAU coach saying that Hamilton had asked him how he could "profit" off of a top basketball recruit. Another recent story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal centered on a young player formerly under the tutelage of Hamilton, who apparently sent him to live with another family under questionable circumstances.

"I think it's a waste of time to go back and forth with people," Hamilton said of the reports. "Just move on and we'll just focus on what we're trying to do. ... That's all we can do."

Labissiere's guardian did acknowledge that the NCAA is already looking into the 6-foot-11 forward, who signed with Kentucky last month and is considered the No. 3 overall prospect in the class of 2015 by Scout.com. Hamilton said he is being "very cooperative" with that investigation.

"They have a right to do their job," he said. "We don't have anything to hide."

Labissiere came to Kentucky on Friday as the star player for Reach Your Dream Prep, a traveling team of high school players that Hamilton founded after Labissiere was ruled ineligible to play at Lausanne Collegiate School because of a transfer flap.

Hamilton noted that Labissiere is still attending classes at Lausanne, which is regarded as one of the best high schools in the Memphis area.

Reach Your Dream Prep is still a work in progress.

The rag-tag team was severely overmatched by perennial powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, which features several future Division I players and won Friday's contest 97-60.

Even on the wrong end of a lopsided score, Labissiere showed why John Calipari and so many other coaches wanted his commitment.

He was 13-for-20 from the field — despite constant double teams — connected on three three-pointers and finished with 33 points and seven rebounds.

Labissiere scored in a variety of ways: baseline runners, stepback jumpers, baby hooks and alley-oop finishes. Scout.com director of recruiting Evan Daniels commented after the game that the UK signee is a "contender" for the No. 1 overall ranking in the senior class.

Oak Hill's Steve Smith has coached more than two dozen McDonald's All-Americans and has coached against many more over the last three decades. He also left the gym impressed Friday night.

"It's hard to find a guy as skilled as Skal is for his size," Smith said. "He can play at the three-point line. He can knock down three-pointers. He can put it on the floor. He's a good passer. ... And he made some tough shots, too. We doubled him a lot.

"When he gets it, he's hard to stop."

Calipari mentioned Anthony Davis in his first public comments about Labissiere after the latter signed with Kentucky last month. Labissiere also acknowledged following Davis when he first "fell in love" with the Wildcats as a high school freshman during the 2011-12 season that resulted in a national title for UK.

But he was quick to correct a question that assumed he patterns his game after the former Cat.

Labissiere mentioned Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and even Hakeem Olajuwon — who won his second NBA title the year before Labissiere was born — as players that he looks up to.

"I just watch basketball," he said, "and try to learn from it."

He's learned quite a bit already, but he knows there's much more to accomplish.

Labissiere laughed when reminded that Calipari had mentioned his name in the same sentence as Davis. "I'm far away from being like him," he said.

He says he "can't wait" to get to Lexington next year and play alongside fellow signees Charles Matthews and Isaiah Briscoe, along with whoever else Calipari lands and whoever decides to come back to the Cats off this season's team.

Labissiere was also quick to shoot down any rumors that he might forgo college — a la Emmanuel Mudiay — and opt for a one-year overseas stint before heading to the NBA.

"I'm not considering that," he said. "I want to play at Kentucky. That's where I want to go."

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