BOZICH | Can Skal Labissiere save his spot in the NBA Draft Lottery?
Can former Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere save his place in the NBA Draft lottery by not participating in games at the Draft combine in Chicago?
CHICAGO (WDRB) – Skal Labissiere will be asked The Question hundreds of ways from today until the NBA Draft on June 23. This is the most direct version:
How does Labissiere’s 6.6-point scoring average and 3.1 rebounding average translate into a guaranteed million-dollar contract and spot in the first round.
“I don’t know,” Labissiere said, one time when he was asked The Question.
“I really don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that.”
Labissiere doesn’t not know how to answer The Question and the crowd that surrounded Labissiere at the Draft combine in downtown Chicago Thursday did not know how to stop asking The Question.
Over. And over. And over.
Why didn’t you score more points? Why did you disappear from John Calipari’s starting lineup at the University of Kentucky? Is your narrow body strong enough to hold up for an 82-game NBA season against grown men?
Was your season a disappointment? Do you simply need developmental time to catch up because you grew up in Haiti?
Have NBA teams asked you about those numbers?
“They have asked me about it,” Labissiere said.
What did you say?
“Positive,” Labissiere said. “I was just positive.”
You can be positive about this: Labissiere and the folks who represent him are ready to attempt to control the narrative.
Labissiere was measured here – at 6 feet 10 ½ without sneakers with a wingspan of 7-2 1/2. Although Labissiere has been working to add bulk and strength, he weighed only 215.8 pounds. His percentage of body fat was an impressive 5.7 percent.
Hands? Just 8.75 inches, smaller than Marcus Lee (9 inches) or guards like Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin or Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon.
He is represented by Travis King of Relativity Sports management group. Labissiere has moved to Bradenton, Fla., where he has worked with a personal trainer and dietician at the IMG Sports Academy.
He answered questions from a media scrum for nearly 15 minutes. He is available for interviews with NBA teams and huddled with the Pelicans, Suns, the Sixers and several other teams.
Labissiere said that he believes if a team shows patience (what’s that?) and waits for him to mature and develop, that he will become a solid NBA player. The guys he loves to watch perform? Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki. LaMarcus Aldridge. Big guys with versatile skills.
But Labissiere will not play his way into the lottery (the top 14 picks) here. No games. Unlike his former University of Kentucky teammate Marcus Lee, Labissiere did not participate in drills or scrimmages
His only on-the-court action here was during a scripted, private workout Wednesday night. NBA teams were not there to direct what Labissiere did. But a video of the workout was released.
“He’s so skilled,” said Tyler Ulis, the former UK point guard who is also at the combine. “Skal really has a lot of skills in his game. Like I was telling everybody else, you’ll see him workout and he’ll hit 50 hook shots, left and right, in a row. Then he steps out and hits 25 jumpers in a row.
“He has the skills to do it. He’s just young.”
That, predictably, stirred a slice of positive buzz on social media, prompting one draft observer to opine that Labissiere had “played” his way back into the top 10 selections for the draft.
The hype smelled similar to the chatter that preceded Labissiere’s arrival at Kentucky last season when he arrived as one of the top five recruits in the nation, but failed to perform like one of the top five players on John Calipari’s UK roster.
During an 18-game stretch from mid-December until March 1, Labissiere was a reserve, twice playing as little as four minutes. From Dec. 12 through Feb. 27, Labissiere scored in double figures twice while going scoreless four times.
“Kentucky’s just a different place,” Labissiere said. “I feel like they prepared me for this next step …
“I don’t know (why his statistics were not better). I did everything that Coach Cal asked me to do. I gave my best to the team.
“I’ve learned a lot. My basketball IQ is a lot better than it was after playing at Kentucky. I’ve definitely gotten a lot better as a basketball player.”
Good enough to be selected in the top 14 picks?
“I’m not sure yet," he said. "I’m not making the decision. I’m just working hard. Whoever picks me, picks me. I just want to go to the right system, the right fit, somebody who is going to use me the right way.
“I’m just worried about playing for the team that’s going to use me the best.”
But until June 23 and the arrival of the Draft, expect Labissiere to keep getting The Question.
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