The recruitment of five-star center Skal Labissiere is, in a word, complicated.
In short, Ole Miss is among a handful of schools in strong position for the 6-foot-11, 200-pound center, who is ranked the No. 10 player in the country for the recruiting class of 2015 by Scout.com. The long-winded version was detailed in a recent article by Gary Parrish (CLICK HERE) of CBSSports.com.
Labissiere is also being chased by Georgetown, Kentucky, Memphis and North Carolina. Ole Miss, like Memphis, offers an opportunity for Labissiere, a native of Haiti, to remain close to home in Olive Branch, Miss., which is in line with the preference of his guardian, Gerald Hamilton, who is handling his recruitment.
But there are myriad other factors, as well. Ole Miss, in turn, is keeping its options open to best position itself to land a player who, if he signed, would go down as easily the highest-rated player to ever sign with Rebel basketball. A player who would act as the headliner in the opening of the team’s new arena during the 2015-16 season.
And those options include Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy’s hiring of a third assistant to his staff.
“It’s kind of on the back burner,” Kennedy said Tuesday. “I’m still going through due diligence. You guys are pretty smart, you probably realize what I’m doing. If it falls like I want it to …”
What he’s doing, though he didn’t – and wouldn’t, as not to violate NCAA rules – speak to it directly, is making his all-out run at Labissiere or any other top recruit interested in Ole Miss. And even in doing so, he’s working well within NCAA rules.
So, Kennedy waits. And waits. Whatever it takes.
Assistants Al Pinkins and Sergio Rouco left for Tennessee and South Florida, respectively, following last season. Former Auburn assistant Tony Madlock was hired, as was former Ole Miss guard Todd Abernethy in an off-the-court capacity as coordinator of recruiting development.
Abernethy, who played four seasons at Ole Miss, including the 2007 season under Kennedy, is currently the acting third assistant coach. If/when Kennedy makes a hire, Abernethy would go down, though there’s the possibility he could remain in the role.
It all depends on who’s hired, with many factors playing into the decision, not the least of which the recruiting dynamic. Again, Ole Miss is in on a handful of top prospects, including Labissiere, of Evangelical Christian School.
“The reason I don’t have a huge sense of urgency is because of Todd,” Kennedy said. “I brought Todd in here in a position that Ole Miss men’s basketball had never had before. It was going to be a non-coaching, recruiting development, off-the-floor position. When this transpired, I moved him up, allowed him to recruit to give us another body. Did a great job for us. He’s gotten us involved with some really good players that he’s the point guy for.
“And he was great on the floor, and I thought it would add to his credibility with the guys if and when that spot gets changed and he goes back to (the role he was hired for). They will view him differently. Here’s a guy that just finished a professional basketball career. He was an All-SEC player. He can still play. He’s out there and he’s interacting with them, which has helped relationship, it’s helped him to get to know the guys.”
If Kennedy is unsuccessful in his pursuit of Labissiere and others, he would feel comfortable with Abernethy. Actually, more than comfortable. Abernethy has impressed in his short time back in Oxford.
“He’ll be a coach sooner rather than later,” Kennedy said. “He’s like everybody - you get in where you get in and you try to move up. He’s had a great opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it. It’s opened my eyes to the fact that he’s a valuable piece to us. So, I don’t feel like ‘OK, I got to name somebody tomorrow because we’re understaffed.’ Because we’re really not.”