If you cover college basketball and college basketball recruiting for a long enough time, you’re going to see and hear about some wild stuff happening.
But Skal Labissiere’s high school basketball future is an all-timer. Labissiere announced on Monday night that he will be completing his high school career by playing at Reach Your Dreams Prep while continuing to receive his education at Laussane Collegiate Academy.
What is Reach Your Dreams Prep? Well, that’s a good question.
As of October 27th, it does not exist. You can see the website right here. It’s nothing but an image of a google maps location for the address 4179 Elliston Road in Memphis, Tennessee. That also happens to be the address for Elliston Baptist Church and Academy. The phone number listed on RYD Prep’s website leads to a voicemail for Gerald Hamilton, which is the same name as Labissiere’s legal US guardian. (If you are unaware, Labissiere is a refugee from Haiti that left the country after the devastating earthquake in 2010. You’ll know his story well enough very soon. Labissiere is a top five recruit in the Class of 2015, a 6-foot-11 center with three point range, the ability to blocks shots and a face-up post game that leaves scouts at all levels salivating.)
Hamilton did not return a voicemail left by NBCSports.com. The prep school shares a name with the non-profit that Hamilton runs to bring talented prospects to the United States.
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This sounds sleazy, doesn’t it?
In actuality, it’s not all that bad.
You see, Labissiere transferred from Evangelical Christian School, where he spent his first three years in high school, to Laussane for his senior season, but the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association ruled him ineligible to play this year. Labissiere missed most of his junior season while dealing with a back injury, which means that he is staring down the barrel of missing his final two seasons in high school, not to mention events like the McDonald’s All-American game.
The working theory is that Hamilton is launching this prep school in an effort to get Labissiere on a team for the 2014-2015 season. Eric Bossi of Rivals.com postulates that RYD Prep would be something like a home school association team. It’s worth noting here that one of high school basketball’s most powerful programs, Findlay Prep, isn’t an actual school. The players there take classes at the Henderson International School.
I don’t know how this will affect Labissiere’s NCAA eligibility because I don’t know how Hamilton plans on funding this team. I also don’t know if he will even be able to get enough players to field a team, let alone put together a schedule at this late of a date. But I would assume that Hamilton is being advised by some of the schools that are still recruiting Labissiere — his list is down to six: Kentucky, Memphis, Tennessee, Georgetown, Baylor and North Carolina — on how to get him on a team while keeping him eligible for college ball.
Labissiere is not a bad kid. He’s friendly, he’s a fun interview and I’ve yet to come across someone with something negative to say about him beyond the decisions he is making with his career. This doesn’t seem like a cash grab or a bid to try and get him some core courses at the last minute.
This is a desperation move being made for a basketball player that doesn’t have a basketball team to play for.