HAMPTON, Va. – Skal Labissiere surveyed the large group of reporters surrounding him after his first game at the Nike EYBL and stopped just short of asking a question of his own.
With a look that suggested "What's all the fuss about?" the 7-footer from Memphis via Haiti smiled and said he's been amazed at how much attention he's been receiving for his basketball talent.
"The difference between here and Haiti," Labissiere said, "is basketball is very serious. "They take it really seriously. The game is more competitive, and it's faster. I was kind of shocked when I first got here.
"In Haiti, it's like that for soccer."
His native country has shaped much of Labissiere's view on life. In January of 2010, his home was destroyed when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti and killed thousands. He was pinned under rubble for several hours while his father and others worked feverishly to save him.
After emerging from the devastation, Labissiere was unable to walk due to his leg being pinned for more than three hours. When he finally could, he knew he had to put everything into reaching his potential in basketball.
"After the earthquake in Haiti, I couldn't play for about seven months because I couldn't really walk and the country was obviously in a mess," he said. "When I came here (to the U.S.) I was really out of shape and had to work really hard to get back in shape. That's when I started getting looks."
Fast forward to 2013 and Labissiere is now being labeled the "Haitian Sensation" and holds offers from major pograms like Kentucky, Memphis, Kansas and Auburn. He is also receiving interest from Tennessee, Mississippi State, Georgetown and UCLA.
"Memphis and Kentucky are recruiting me the hardest right now," Labissiere said. "Kansas just started recruiting me last week."
Asked what he knows about the Wildcats, Labissiere cited UK coach John Calipari.
"Coach Cal is recruiting me pretty hard right now, so that's one of the big things that stands out to me," he said. "Also, it's a pretty big program… The one-and-done, of course. And I watched the show (All Access Kentucky) on ESPN."
Asked what he thought of the nationally-televised glace inside the UK program, Labissiere laughed and said: "(Calipari) is pretty intense. He pushes his players to the next level, which is good. I like that."
Labissiere said his guardian is currently working with the UK staff on setting un an unofficial visit to Lexington.
Through two games in the EYBL, Labissiere has averaged 16 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He has hit 12 of 14 shots from the field, ranging from jump hooks to athletic put-back dunks and even a deep 3-point shot from the top of the key.
'Haitian Sensation' a fan of Calipari, Cats
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