“It’s painful to watch sometimes. I’m sitting there, too, watching it. It’s painful. But it’s part of the growth of players.”
– Calipari on Skal Labissiere
MOCK DRAFT PICK No. 10
SKAL LABISSIERE, FRESHMAN, KENTUCKY
POWER FORWARD / CENTER
6’11” • 225 lbs.
Skal Labissiere, a forward and center from Haiti who enrolled at Kentucky this summer, is a bit of an enigma. As the number-one overall prospect coming into this season, hyped over even Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram ,and Jaylen Brown, Labissiere looked every bit like a bonafide NBA star before he even took the court in college.
But what ensued after was one of the most disappointing seasons in college history for a highly anticipated recruit like Labissiere. So far this year, he has averaged a pedestrian 6.6 points / 3.1 rebounds / 1.6 blocks per game on 15.8 minutes played per game with a field goal percentage of .516 and a PER of 18.5. Other than his block numbers, his stats hardly stand out among this crop of talent.
Labissiere began the season as a starter for John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, and within his first few games had a 26-point game (you can watch those highlights above); however, he never replicated similar performances, and due to both abysmal rebound numbers for a 6-11, 225-pound center and poor defense when forced outside of the paint, he was benched and replaced by 3-star recruit Derek Willis.
He is really bad on rotation defense.
Despite his frame, he gives up easy shots inside the paint, and though he averages 1.6 blocks per game, Skal’s not a particularly great one-on-one defender, either. To make matters worse, he has a total rebound percentage of 11.1% – not exactly what you want from a star big man.
Many of his on-court failures stem from poor coaching from John Calipari down the stretch. He immediately wanted Labissiere to mimic Karl-Anthony Towns, last year’s number one overall pick and likely rookie of the year winner in the NBA; instead of letting Labissiere play the way he wanted to play, scoring away from the basket and using pick-and-pops to hit mid-range jump shots with high levels of efficiency, Calipari forced him inside and tried to get him to score the way Towns did.
At 225 lbs, he simply doesn’t have the size or strength to consistently dominate bigger inside players. As long as Calipari forced him into a traditional big-man role offensively, Labissiere struggled. But as of late, Calipari’s utilized better options in playing the 6-11 Haiti native, and the results have been significantly better. For example, in his game against LSU, he had 18 points, nine rebounds and six blocks. Given this was a standout performance, but it at least shows a flash in the pan of potential going forward.
All that being said, Labissiere did not have a single good game against a good team this year. By that I mean in of the 10 teams he scored more than 10 points against, only one of them made the tournament.
And that team was Stony Brook.
Now, nothing against Stony Brook, but they’re not exactly Kansas (against whom, by the way, he managed four points in 14 minutes). With how weak the Southeastern Conference has been in basketball, Kentucky played a notably weak schedule this year: their two most challenging opponents were Kansas and Duke, both in pre-conference play. They also split a season series against Texas A&M one game to one game, with Labissiere scoring five total points in the two contests.
I’m amazed by the hype this dude is still getting. Yes, I know he has potential, and yes, I know he looked good at the Nike Hoop Summit a year ago, and yes, I know that he has potential.
Did I mention he has potential?
I know he has potential.
I’m not here to doom this guy into a career of mediocrity.
Except, I’m kind of here to do that.
But he has potential.