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John Calipari to NBA: Skal Labissiere could have been No. 1 overall pick down the road

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari talked about last season and thoughts on the upcoming season on Wednesday May 11, 2016 in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari talked about last season and thoughts on the upcoming season on Wednesday May 11, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Lexington Herald-Leader

At his press conference on Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari talked about his three players who have hired agents and are early entries in the NBA Draft.

In doing so, Calipari had a message to any team thinking about drafting center Skal Labissiere, who struggled in his freshman season at UK.

Take a chance on Labissiere now, said Calipari, and you could have a player who would have been the No. 1 overall pick in the draft down the road.

“Skal has the skill set to be in that league. No question,” Calipari said. “Again, I just told you, shooting is at a premium. He’s a 7-footer who can shoot. Now, physically, he just has to catch up. That’s usually at God’s speed, not yours.

“When he’s physically able to play in that league, he’s going to be one of those guys. And what I would tell any team, if he had stayed in school another year or two, he would have been the No. 1 pick. Because he’d have figured it out, he’d have blocked more shots, he’d have run better, he’d been more physical. So here’s what I tell you, in 2016, whatever pick you get becomes in 2019 or 2018, you get the No. 1 pick. Should you take him? That’s why he’s going to go in the lottery. Because they’re saying, you know what, if we waited a year or two and got him, he would be the No. 1 pick.”

Calipari was asked what advice he gave Labissiere.

“I more or less listened to him and there was no question he wanted to go,” said the coach.

Calipari was asked what NBA people like about Jamal Murray.

“Steph Curry,” said Calipari. “(He’s) 6-5. Can really shoot it. They saw him play point guard in Canada. They saw him play both positions here. They love now that he can play off the ball that he doesn’t have to score with the ball in his hands or just in a pick and roll. They love that. They love the fact that he’s improved defensively.

“Now all of a sudden, it’s a couple of guys that, and then you look at him and you say if I’m going to take one of those, what’s the sure bet. He’s 6-5. He’s physical. He’s young. He’s a baby. I want you to think about it, he just came from Canada and he had eight months of this. And you go from a volume shooter to a high percentage, efficient player who could play both positions.”

Also, Calipari talked about where point guard and SEC Player of the Year Tyler Ulis is in the eyes of NBA scouts.

“I also like where Tyler sits,” said the coach. “I’ve said it before, there are teams that won’t take Tyler because he’s 5-9. What helped Tyler’s position? Isaiah Thomas in Boston at 5-9. Absolutely carried Boston. When he played well, they won. When he didn’t play well, they lost. (He’s) 5-9, a little sturdier, but Tyler, it helped him. So now any team that was afraid is going to give him a second look. I think he’s going to be fine.

“I’d like him to be on a better team because on a team with better players he’s even better. You put him with really good players, they want to play with him.”

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