Skal Labissiere

Skal Labissiere
Associated Press

Report: Kentucky freshman Skal Labissiere cleared for competition

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The biggest question pundits had for the Kentucky Wildcats as the start of the regular season was the status of elite freshman big Skal Labissiere. Would Labissiere, whose connection to legal guardian Gerald Hamilton sparked concerns in some circles regarding his amateur status, be cleared for competition ahead of the Wildcats’ season opener?

Friday afternoon the answer to that question was learned, with Labissiere declared clear for competition. The news was first reported by Yahoo’s Shams Charania. While head coach John Calipari repeatedly stated that he wasn’t too concerned about the situation, noting at SEC Media Day this week that last year’s group had five players whose clearance wasn’t granted until just before the start of the season, this news gives the Hall of Fame head coach one less thing to worry about.

Labissiere is projected to be not only one of the top players in college basketball but a lottery pick in next June’s NBA Draft should he decide to leave school after one season. With regards to Kentucky, he’ll team up with veterans Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Derek Willis, and fellow freshman Isaac Humphries to form one of the nation’s top front court rotations.

Kentucky will add New Zealander Tai Wynyard in December, but the plan for him is to redshirt with an eye towards getting prepared for the 2016-17 campaign.

Kentucky stages annual Big Blue Madness

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Before Kentucky’s annual Big Blue Madness began, highlights from last year’s near-perfect season dominated the video screens, setting the stage for Friday night’s annual event.

Although a bulk of last year’s NCAA national runner-up squad which finished 38-1 weren’t in attendance, it didn’t take away the excitement generated by the festivities that mark the unofficial start of the college basketball season.

“We are the winningest program in the history of college basketball,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “We’ve won more NCAA tournament games than any school in the country. We have been and will continue to be the gold standard in college basketball.”

A capacity crowd filled the arena to get an early glimpse of the Wildcats. The players were introduced with a full length video displayed on a white backdrop covering the court.

Kentucky is replacing more than 80 percent of its scoring and a bulk of the inside cast from last season. Overall, six players, including overall No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns, were chosen in the NBA draft.

“What does the future hold? You’re looking at them right here with this team,” Calipari said. “This season will be a process. Nothing happens overnight. I want these kids to worry about pleasing each other, not worry about pleasing me. They’ve got to have more fun than any team in the country playing and growing together. That’s how we become the last team standing. And I believe in this group.”

One of the post players signed to help fill the void vacated by Towns – Skal Labissiere – hasn’t been cleared to play but is practicing with the team as the NCAA reviews his eligibility status for the upcoming season.

Earlier this week, Calipari wasn’t concerned about Labissiere’s status and expects the 6-foot-11 center from Haiti to be in the lineup when the Wildcats open the season against Albany on Nov. 13.

The Kentucky women’s team scrimmaged before the men’s squad took their turn on the court. Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell danced after announcing he had “retired” after five years of entertaining the crowd. Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart asked Mitchell to reconsider to the delight of those in attendance.

Mitchell’s squad was without junior Makayla Epps, who didn’t participate as part of her suspension. Epps, the team’s returning leading scorer (14.9 points per game), was suspended following an off-court incident in her hometown last spring.

Former Kentucky standouts Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were in attendance. Davis is in town for the New Orleans Pelicans-Sacramento Kings exhibition game on Saturday. Willie Cauley-Stein and recent Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame inductee Louie Dampier were among the attendees.

UK’s Labissiere dunks wearing Haitian flag

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Kentucky had its photo day on Thursday afternoon.

Several new additions to the Wildcats decided to add some creativity to the day’s events. Mychal Mulder, a junior college transfer from Ontario, spun a globe on his finger as a way to showcasing the roster’s international presence. One of those players is Skal Labissiere, the nation’s top recruit, who is originally from Haiti. During the photo shoot, the 6-foot-11 center threw down a one-handed dunk with the Haitian flag draped around his neck.

Kentucky opens the season on Nov. 13 against Albany.

Nike Hoop Summit mixtape of Kentucky big man Skal Labissiere (VIDEO)

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Kentucky incoming freshman Skal Labissiere is one the key pieces for the Wildcats this season as Rivals and some other services rated the Haitian big man as the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2015.

At the Nike Hoop Summit, Labissiere got to play against some talented competition and showcased a lot of his skills, including scoring around the hoop, in the post and on face-up jumpers.

This video comes from CityLeagueHoopsTV

Kentucky commit Skal Labissiere tops Rivals’ final Class of 2015 rankings

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Rivals released its final ranking of the Top 150 players in the Class of 2015, and the SEC commitment at the top of the list isn’t the player some would expect to be in that spot.

Skal Labissiere, who’s headed to Kentucky next season, leads the way in the Rivals150 rankings with LSU commit Ben Simmons next in line. Labissiere played well in both the Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic this month, with his 21-point, six-rebound, six-block performance helping lead the World Team past the United State Select Team at the former.

Labissiere posted a double-double at the Jordan Brand Classic, tallying 11 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes of action. As for Simmons, he helped lead Montverde Academy to a National High School Invitational title in late March and also played in the McDonald’a All American Game in Chicago.

The remainder of the top five consists of forwards Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and Cheick Diallo, with all three yet to commit to a school for next year. Their decisions, along with those of guard Malik Newman and forward Thon Maker (who are ranked eighth and ninth, respectively), will go along way towards shaping preseason expectations in college basketball for next season.

Rounding out the top ten in the Rivals 150 are Maryland commit Diamond Stone at six, Cal commit Ivan Rabb at seven, Newman, Maker and Kentucky commit Isaiah Briscoe at ten.

Five-star Kentucky commit believes the NCAA will clear him to play

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Much has been made about the eligibility of Class of 2015 Kentucky commit and five-star big man Skal Labissiere. The 2014-15 high school basketball season saw a lot of speculation about whether Labissiere, who some consider the best overall long-term prospect in the class, would be able to play college basketball after some strange happenings with his American guardian, Gerald Hamilton.

In November, there was a report from Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com that Hamilton was attempting to profit off of Labissiere including asking one local Memphis AAU coach, “How can I make money off of a basketball player?”

There were also the questions surrounding Hamilton putting Labissiere on Reach Your Dream Prep, a team created, speficially, to make sure Labissiere played his senior season and potentially made the McDonald’s All-American Game. While McDonald’s didn’t take Skal in its game, the NCAA came inquiring about all of the commotion surrounding Labissiere’s new prep school.

On Friday, Labissiere spoke out directly on the NCAA matter in a story with Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal.

“I’ll be able to play right away,” Labissiere said to Tucker. “The NCAA is going to clear me and I’ll be able to play right away.”

In December, Hamilton told Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal that the NCAA was indeed looking into matters with Labissiere.

“Oh, yeah, they have investigated,” Hamilton said of the NCAA. “Of course, they hear all the rumors – and that’s what they are, rumors – going out about me, and they have a right to do their job. Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff that went out about me, a lot of people don’t even know me. I don’t know how they got the information. But they’re doing their job, and we’re doing our job. We don’t have anything to hide.”

While the NCAA has yet to officially say anything on Labissiere — or clear him at Kentucky — the Haitian big man saying that he’s going to get cleared is an interesting development. Sometimes, it’s difficult to take a kid’s word in this situation, but at this point, it’s really all we have to go by.

It’ll be intriguing to see if anything comes of the alleged NCAA investigation into Hamilton and Labissiere. Either way, Kentucky needs its new five-star big man in a major way next season after losing seven players to the 2015 NBA Draft.

While many consider the race for the No. 1 spot in the 2015 class to be between LSU commit Ben Simmons and Georgia native Jaylen Brown, Labissiere is generating a lot of long-term buzz after his week at the Jordan Brand Classic. Draft Express currently rates Labissiere as the No. 1 pick in its 2016 NBA mock draft.