Kentucky and Memphis battling for elite soph Skal Labissiere

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

It was the first game of the high school season, and Skal Labissiere wasn't happy with his performance. He didn't play great.

But he was impressive enough to one certain man in the crowd: John Calipari.

The Kentucky head coach came forward after the game and extended a scholarship offer to the elite high school sophomore, who plays for Evangelical Christian (Tenn.) near Memphis.

“When I heard it, I couldn't say a thing, because I was shocked,” Labissiere said. “He told me I had the potential to be great. Coach told me, 'Usually we don't offer kids that young,' but he did to me. So that's a real honor.”

Calipari has had a nice lineage of talented big men come through his programs, with Marcus Camby, Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel the primary highlights.

Could Labissiere be next?

“I like the way he pushes his players,” he said, “how he gets them to the NBA and the next level.”

The other school making the biggest push for Labissiere is in-state Memphis. Along with Kentucky, the Tigers are coming after him the hardest.

“I enjoy the way they play,” Labissiere said. “I just like their coaching staff. Coach [Josh] Pastner is a really good guy. I like their program.”

Of course, having Kentucky and Memphis at the top of the list could be the start of an interesting situation. Calipari has rarely recruited Memphis since leaving the Tigers for Kentucky, but there are still some people in his old city who aren't big fans of the Wildcats' boss.

Even though he hasn't been in Tennessee for very long, Labissiere knows the relationship well.

“People talk about that a lot in Memphis, because there's a lot of people in Memphis that don't like Coach Cal,” he said.

The big man came over from Haiti two and a half years ago, after surviving a devastating earthquake. Although he's still somewhat raw, Labissiere has become one of the top 10 players in the class of 2015.

In addition to Memphis and Kentucky, plenty of other schools have also been in pursuit. Kansas and Auburn have offered, while UCLA, Georgetown and Tennessee are showing interest. LSU has come to watch a game.

In terms of potential, Labissiere might be the most promising prospect in the class of 2015. At 6-foot-11, he has tremendous length and skill, possessing the ability to block shots as well as anyone in the class. He runs the floor very well, and can finish in a variety of ways.

Right now, his only knock is a lack of strength. But he's working on that.

“Getting stronger,” Labissiere said when asked about his individual goals. “Being quicker in my movements in the post.”

Labissiere is No. 7 in the 247 Sports 2015 rankings.

(video via CityLeagueHoopsTV)

 
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