PORTLAND, Ore. — NBA scouts were stacked three deep this week at the practices for the World Select Team at the Nike Hoop Summit. Many of them were there to see Skal Labissiere, a 7-foot Kentucky signee who played somewhat anonymously this season.
“It’s been exciting,” he said. “I was really looking forward to this because I know what this game is about. All the scouts are here and I know the opportunity I have to show my skills and what I have on the floor.
“A lot of kids wish they were in my position. To be here is a true blessing from God.”
The just-happy-to-be here attitude isn’t phony. Labissiere and his family barely survived the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Shortly after that, because of his basketball skills, he was brought to Memphis through Reach Your Dream, a nonprofit organization. From the eighth grade on, he’s lived with the family of the program’s director, Gerald Hamilton, who has become Labissiere’s guardian in the United States, though not without controversy.
Labissiere transferred from Evangelical Christian (Cordova, Tenn.) to Lausanne Collegiate Prep (Memphis) over the summer. In October, he was ruled ineligible to play basketball for Lausanne by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, which determined the move was strictly for basketball reasons.
Shortly thereafter, Hamilton formed a team, Reach Your Dream Prep, to showcase the Kentucky signee. Labissiere continued to attend Lausanne Collegiate as Reach Your Dream Prep wasn’t an actual high school, though it played Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and other high schools.
Hamilton said he was told by Kentucky to keep a low profile until Labissiere is cleared by the NCAA and RYD Prep certainly did that.
Labissiere could watch, but not play for Lausanne’s varsity team, which finished 19-11. Instead, RYD Prep, with only one elite player in Labissiere, was overmatched in most of its games, which were covered only sporadically.
“We didn’t do anything wrong,” Labissiere said. “I went to a regular high school. Reach Your Dream Prep was the name of my team. It was more like a club team. You can’t blame people for not understanding. We didn’t make a big deal of it and just kept moving forward.”
Labissiere’s low profile ended Saturday as he had 21 points, a game-high six blocks and six rebounds, helping the World Select Team defeat Team USA 103-101. Even before the game, many mock 2016 NBA drafts had him going as a top-five pick. He didn’t hurt his cause.
He will next head to New York for the Jordan Brand Classic. Players arrive Tuesday for Friday’s game.
“I just need to work on my defense and rebounding and that’s my main focus now,” Labissiere said.