Skal Labissiere: Evaluation

Many of the prospects we cover have compelling stories to tell, but few can match the improbable, nearly tragic journey that has brought Skal Labissiere to basketball prominence.


Introduction


Of the many victims claimed by the 2010 Haitian earthquake, Skal Labissiere nearly joined their ranks. A young teenager living in Port-Au-Prince, the quake trapped Labissiere and members of his family under the rubble of their home.

The Labissieres survived, but Skal would be forced to endure a two-month recovery process that forced him to reflect upon his mortality at a far earlier age than is customary for young people.

He next moved to the United States, where he blossomed quickly on the hardwood. Labissiere had played the game in Haiti, but his development exploded upon taking the court for Cordova (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian.

By the time he suited up for Team Penny on the 2013 EYBL circuit, the 6-11 big man had become a national presence within the Class of 2015. He impressed at the NBPA Top 100 Camp that summer but didn’t consistently shine, leading some to wonder if he possessed the toughness to excel at top level. A back injury curtailed his junior campaign, making him something of a mystery man entering the 2014 travel season.

Labissiere dispelled any concerns about his development during the months to follow. He performed so well in Las Vegas to round out his summer that he earned serious consideration as the top overall prospect in the class. He never had strayed from the elite range, mind you, but this past July he elevated himself another notch on the national stage.

His senior season began to shape up as an audition for No. 1, but in September the Tennessee high school athletic association ruled him ineligible pertaining to transfer issues after he relocated to Memphis’ Lausanne Collegiate. His next move was to remain at Lausanne as a student yet compete for Reach Your Dreams prep, a brand new school also located in Memphis.

Those complexities aside, Labiessiere has continued to navigate an increasingly intense recruitment that involves Memphis, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgetown and Baylor.


Assets


Labissiere’s reach, mobility, quickness and overall skill level have cemented him near the top of the class. He boasts outstanding face-up ability for a 6-11 hoopster, stepping as far outside as 22 feet and drilling three-pointers from the top of the key.

With game and a backstory, Labissiere could become a media darling

Not only that, he can score from the interior and middle areas as well. He’ll need to gain strength, without question, but already Labissiere receives entry passes cleanly and lofts nearly unstoppable jump hooks from 6-12 feet. He also makes a quick spin move that he can finish with a reverse layup or slam. As he gains lower body muscle and doesn’t have to work as hard to hold his position, he’ll become even more effective with his back to the basket.

Meanwhile, unlike most big guys with shooting touch, he doesn’t need to be stationary or require much time to release his shot. He genuinely shoots like a smaller player and in Vegas even hit some stepback jumpers from the baseline. Just imagine what five more years of experience and muscle will do for his game.

Labissiere also runs the floor effortlessly and is an above-average leaper who’s functionally more athletic than he appears due to long arms. In part for that reason, he has developed into an impact shotblocker on defense and should blossom into a terrific offensive rebounder as well.

His competitive style is poised and he doesn’t succumb to showboating, as he remains focused on what he does best and plays within the team concept.


Deficits


This section typically doesn’t read very long when we’re discussing a top-five player, and Labissiere’s deficits similarly are scant.

As mentioned, he’ll need to gain strength, but that shouldn’t prove difficult for him as me matures naturally and gets serious about his physique.

He also does have a tendency to overdribble. He’s very coordinated and can handle in spots, but in the open court he’s prone to getting ripped by guards. Becoming more judicious in that regard will be part of his development.


Outlook


Labissiere projects as an immediate starter for any college program he chooses and, if he’s able to accelerate his strength cultivation over the next year, could emerge as a national star his freshman season. Sometimes, skilled big guys don’t translate as well as freshmen due to the learning curve — the Jared Sullingers are more common than the Michael Beasleys — but don’t discount his potential to shine early.

When NBA scouts begin watch him critically, they may wish he were a touch more explosive as a leaper. He doesn’t jump nearly as well as Anthony Davis, for example, nor is he as nimble laterally. So as you soon as you start reading those comparisons, dismiss them summarily.

Ultimately, however, assuming positive development and no injury troubles or other issues, we’re looking at a long-time pro. Many players have advocates who toss out “pro” liberally, but in this case it actually applies.

Labissiere should enjoy a fine freshman campaign — and possibly better than fine — then proceed onto a starter’s role at the sport’s highest level. From there, we’ll just have to see how he far he can advance his talents.


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