LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky men’s basketball freshman forward Skal Labissiere (pictured) has declared for the 2016 NBA Draft, he announced Tuesday, April 5. Labissiere plans to sign with an agent, which would effectively end his career at UK.
Labissiere will forego his future eligibility and enter his name in the upcoming NBA Draft, to be held June 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I want to thank my family, my coaches, teammates and most importantly I want to thank God for the opportunity that he gave me to represent and play for the University of Kentucky,” Labissiere said in the news release. “I also want to thank the fans for their support through everything this season. I am excited to announce that I am entering the 2016 NBA Draft.”
Last week, freshman guard Jamal Murray announced his intentions to stay in the 2016 NBA Draft. Senior forward Alex Poythress is also eligible for the draft.
Labissiere will depart from UK after helping Kentucky to a 27-9 season that included a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season title and the SEC Tournament championship. The Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament as a four seed.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a player and the way Skal handled himself on our campus this season,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “He was a great student, a great teammate and I’m so proud of the way he handled himself in the community. He is one of the greatest kids I’ve ever coached. On the basketball court, it took him and our staff a while to figure out how to best utilize him, but his improvement on that court over the year is why he is in this position to put his name in the draft and be projected in the middle of the lottery. His future is out ahead of him and I think in time he will be in the same breath as all of our big guys who have performed well in the NBA.”
Labissiere is coming off a year in which he flashed signs of elite potential. The native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, appeared in all 36 games with 18 starts, averaging 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his lone season at Kentucky. His 1.6 blocks per game ranked seventh in the SEC, and he blocked three or more shots nine times during the year. Labissiere shot 51.6 percent from the field.
The 6-foot-11, 225-pound forward had several standout performances during his freshman campaign. He scored in double figures in four of his first six career games and posted a career-high 26 points in his second career game.
Labissiere came on late in the season with an 11-point, eight-rebound game in the win at Florida and an 18-point, nine-rebound, six-block effort in the regular-season finale vs. LSU. He made 8 of 10 shots in the victory over the Tigers. In his NCAA Tournament debut, Labissiere scored 12 points and blocked six shots, tied for the second most in an NCAA Tournament game in school history.
Twice Labissiere won SEC Freshman of the Week, earning the honor in the first week of the regular season and the last.
Most mock drafts list Labissiere as a first-round pick.
Labissiere will try to bolster Kentucky’s unprecedented recent success of helping players reach the NBA. Since Calipari joined the Wildcat program for the 2009-10 season, UK has produced 25 NBA Draft picks over six seasons, more than double any other school.
Included in the 25 are 19 first-round selections, three No. 1 overall picks, 10 top-10 selections and 13 lottery picks.
Players have until May 25 to make a final decision based on a new rule between the NCAA and NBA so long as they don’t hire an agent.
The NBA Draft Combine will take place May 11-15. Players who have not hired agents will have 10 days following that opportunity to make a final decision as to whether to forego their athletic eligibility or return to school.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught