There were some disappointed with Skal Labissiere’s performance in his first game, as the possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft only scored nine points and had five rebounds Friday as Kentucky sleepily defeated a pesky Albany 78-65.
Those same issues will not be brought up in Game Two of the Labissiere experience though, as the Haitian forward poured in 26 points in 21 minutes on 10-12 shooting as the Wildcats defeated NJIT 87-57 on Saturday.
Labissiere didn’t just score his points by being taller than the competition, either. He showcased many of the offensive skills that have NBA scouts drooling about his potential.
It’s obviously just one game early in the season and it’s not against the best competition, but everything that the average fan has heard about him is on display here. The smoothness. The fluidity with which he runs the floor. The silky jumper. It’s pretty clear that there is a lot to be excited about at this stage, especially given his relative lack of experience with high-level basketball.
It’s also clear that he still struggles a bit to establish his post position, which are showcased in his rebounding numbers. Plus, he’s still a little bit tenative on the defensive end when rotating to protect the rim on the weakside. But on offense, even when he can only get within 13 feet of the rim in the post, the turnaround mid-range jumper is so lethal with his high release point and high arcing jumper that it kind of doesn’t matter. Those shots are going to be efficient for him on this level as he continues to develop his strength.
The 2-0 Wildcats’ next game comes against Duke on Tuesday night in the Champions’ Classic. It’ll be interesting to see him up against tougher competition, as the Blue Devils’ Amile Jefferson particularly has the size, strength, mobility, length and smarts to cause him problems. He’ll be able to move Labissiere around the floor and get him uncomfortable in ways that players at NJIT’s level just can’t.
But given what Labissiere showed Saturday, there’s clearly a lot to be excited about, and his skill set could easily cause Jefferson problems in the same way.