NCB On The Trail: Skal Labissiere

After the early-signing period, Kentucky is at the top of the class rankings. But with seven of the top-10 prospects in the ESPN 100 still uncommitted, there is plenty of work left to be done before the best class in the land is crowned.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the No. 1 class contenders, what they would have to do to finish in the top spot and what their chances are of finishing there (percentage):

Kentucky (75 percent)

Yes, the Wildcats are No. 1 now, but ironically none of their three commitments -- Skal Labissiere (No. 11), Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13), and Charles Matthews (No. 44) -- are from a top-10 ranked player in the class and so they’re far from a sure thing. John Calipari will likely look to add two more pieces to his class, one in the frontcourt and another in the backcourt. If he can get Ivan Rabb (No. 5), Cheick Diallo (No. 7), Caleb Swanigan (No. 8), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10) or Carlton Bragg (No. 18) up front and then Jaylen Brown (No. 2), Malik Newman (No. 3), Brandon Ingram (No. 12) or Antonio Blakeney (No. 14) in the backcourt, UK has a good chance of finishing on top. If they have a mass exodus to the pros, and end up taking more than two players off this list, the top ranking will be a virtual certainty.

Early signing period winners and losers 

November, 20, 2014
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Over the past few years, college basketball's early signing period has clearly taken precedence over the spring period. Nearly every committed player signs his letter of intent during the fall period, while several available top-100 prospects usually make their decisions within the seven-day stretch.

This season is a bit different. While the wide majority of top-100 players are signed and sealed to their future school, 11 of the 18 five-star prospects are still on the board. As a result, we're going to have far more drama moving forward than we've had in recent years.

Of course, that doesn't mean the early signing period was without interesting storylines. Five ESPN 100 prospects made their decisions, and several schools had to go back to the drawing board to reassess their 2015 classes.

WINNERS

Kentucky


Well, this was easy. The Wildcats went into the early signing period with one commit and a borderline top-40 class and exited with two five-star pledges and the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. With Charles Matthews (No. 44 in the ESPN 100) already in tow, Kentucky went to work, landing Skal Labissiere (No. 11) and Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13) in a 45-minute span last Thursday. Labissiere has perhaps the most pro potential of any prospect in the country, while Briscoe is the best point guard in the 2015 class. As always, the lesson is to never underestimate John Calipari. A month ago, it wasn't a lock that Kentucky was going to get Labissiere or Briscoe -- let alone both of them, back-to-back, on the same day. Calipari closed with both prospects, though, and now the Wildcats are back in a familiar position atop the recruiting rankings.


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Kentucky's No. 1 class officially signs

November, 14, 2014
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Kentucky head coach John Calipari announced the signing of three ESPN 100 recruits on Friday, giving the Wildcats coach the No. 1 class on ESPN.com.

Heading to Lexington next season will be the top-ranked point guard Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13 overall), the No. 5 center Skal Labissiere (No. 11) and the No. 12 shooting guard Charles Matthews (No. 44).

"All three of these players had dreams to play at Kentucky," Calipari said on the school's website. "Those dreams are now a reality. We didn't have to beg any of them. They wanted to be here. They are all different, yet collectively they will complement each other nicely. It's a great start to what could be a super class again."

Calipari's recruiting classes have finished No. 1 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013) or No. 2 (2012, 2014) every year since he took over in Lexington.

Kentucky reclaims familiar No. 1 spot 

November, 14, 2014
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Heading into Thursday afternoon, Kentucky had a borderline top-40 recruiting class nationally. There was just one player in the fold, four-star guard Charles Matthews.

Less than one hour later, Kentucky was back in a familiar spot -- with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

The Wildcats landed commitments from Skal Labissiere (No. 11 in the ESPN 100) and Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13). Labissiere might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class, and Briscoe’s strong summer cemented his status as the premier point guard in 2015.


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ESPN 100 center Skal Labissiere selected the Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday after also considering Memphis, Baylor, Georgetown, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Here is a look at what the No. 11 overall prospect in the class of 2015 will bring to Lexington.

Why he committed: The opportunity to play in a system that is a proven winner and been an NBA factory since head coach John Calipari took over. Also, the Wildcats could have another banner year again in June with as many as six players possibly declaring for the NBA draft so playing time would be plentiful in this scenario.

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Roundtable: Analyzing the early signing period 

November, 12, 2014
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College basketball's early signing period begins Wednesday, and while 78 of the ESPN 100's prospects have committed to schools across the country, it's time to put pen to paper. Our RecruitingNation analysts break down what they expect to see before the signing window closes on Nov. 19.


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Last weekend, Kentucky had about 90 NBA scouts on its campus for a practice that was televised on ESPNU -- yet this weekend will feature an even bigger event for the Wildcats.

Friday brings Big Blue Madness to Lexington, where the Kentucky faithful will pack Rupp Arena for their first look at the 2014-15 edition of the Wildcats, the likely preseason No. 1 team in the country. More important, it is also the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for John Calipari and Kentucky. Seven five-star prospects from the classes of 2015 and 2016 are expected on campus this weekend, in addition to four-star commit Charles Matthews.

Calipari and his staff haven’t tried to downplay the event to the prospective recruits, either.

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Big men dominate in class of 2015 

September, 29, 2014
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A closer look at the class in 2015 shows that 10 of the top 15 prospects are either power forwards or centers. But don’t be mistaken as not all big men are the same. This is certainly not a one-size-fits-all talent pool.

Let’s look at how they are different in size, body type, skill, athletic ability and basketball IQ.

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Las Vegas Fab 48 recap, Day 1 

July, 24, 2014
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LAS VEGAS -- The first night of the evaluation period landed us at Bishop Gorman High School for the Las Vegas Fab 48, and there was a plethora of talent on hand. While Dwayne Bacon was converting buckets at all three levels, super sophomore DeAndre Ayton displayed glimpses of his immense talent at both ends.

Best Player

Brandon Sampson
2015, SG, 6-foot-5, 170 pounds
AAU Team: Louisiana Elite
LSU was three-deep (coaches) while Sampson showed off his repertoire. The willowy shooting guard facilitated the offense on occasion, but he was at his best creating space with the dribble and launching jump shots from the mid-range to the 3-point line. He still needs to get stronger for the next level, but his shooting skills and bouncy nature make him one of the elite 2-guards in the country.


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PHILADELPHIA -- The Reebok Classic Breakout took a backseat to no other event over the past 48 hours as the staff did a tremendous job of putting together a deep and talented roster, which in turn attracted over 200 Division I college coaches including dozens of high-profile head coaches. Here's a look at which players were most impressive throughout the first two days of action:

Best pure point guard: Derryck Thornton


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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- There was a major buzz inside the gym of Philadelphia University as the clock struck 5 p.m. and the likes of John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, John Beilein, Bo Ryan, and dozens of other high profile head coaches kicked off the July evaluation period at the Reebok Breakout Camp.

Marquee matchup


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Real Deal in the Rock's top performers 

April, 21, 2014
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Little Rock, Ark. -- The Real Deal in the Rock is in its 10th year as one of the top spring events in the country, bringing some of the nation’s top teams to the Deep South. Here are some of the players who stood out:

Best Surprise
Admon Gilder
6-3, 180, 2015, SG

Gilder is a supreme scorer. He consistently found ways to put the ball in the basket all weekend, culminating with a 28-point performance in the championship game. Gilder is a good shooter who can create off the bounce. He should be a high priority for Big 12 and SEC schools.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

Now that the Blue Devils have secured a commitment from ESPN 60 shooting guard Luke Kennard, their focus in the 2015 class will be on landing some size to blend in with their strong perimeter talent.

Jahlil Okafor could certainly be on his way to the NBA draft after next season, and that would just leave Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee in the post for Duke.

Besides Chase Jeter, other top 2015 frontcourt targets include ESPN 60 No. 1 recruit Ivan Rabb, Diamond Stone and Skal Labissiere.

That group of players possesses the size, rebounding, shot blocking and scoring Duke needs inside.

The Blue Devils are also still in the running for ESPN 100 center Myles Turner, the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 class. Turner will make his college decision sometime in the late signing period this spring.

And as we look down the road at the Class of 2016, Duke's priorities are in-state prospect Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum from Missouri.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff are landing some of the nation's premier talent in hopes of keeping Duke in contention in the powerful ACC.
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



First of all, that's a great question because the Blue Devils will -- in all likelihood -- lose Jahlil Okafor after one season. I would not get caught up as to who can play the 5-spot. You can win in college basketball with elite power forwards if they do their job by defending and showing the ability to defend bigger players and rebound. It's important they display the skill to score both inside and away from the basket. Duke will need size in 2015.

In addition to ESPN No. 5 Diamond Stone (Milwaukee, Wis./ Dominican) who the Blue Devils have made deep inroads with, Duke is involved with the big man from Texas -- ESPN No. 6 Elijah Thomas (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster) and super shot blocker and ESPN No. 8 Skal Labissiere (Memphis, Tenn. Evangelical Christian).

Speaking of elite power forwards, the Blue Devils are in the mix for ESPN No. 10 Carlton Bragg (Cleveland, Ohio/ St. Joseph) and ESPN No. 37 Chase Jeter(Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman), who is an above average post up player and rebounder.

We are a long way from 2015, but for college coaches who are recruiting, the early period is when you begin your evaluations and show attention to the ones you want to get.

Roundtable: Which '15 recruit will shine? 

December, 3, 2013
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With 95 percent of the current ESPN 100 officially off the board following the early signing period, the focus of the recruiting world will likely begin to shift to the 2015 class sooner rather than later. We already know plenty about the class that currently populates our ESPN 60, but with the second half of their high school careers just beginning, the recruits are bound to make plenty of movement in the rankings over the next 18 months.

With an eye on recent late bloomers like Joel Embiid in the 2012 class and Myles Turner in 2013, we asked our team of RecruitingNation experts which ESPN 60 prospect will everyone be talking about a year from now.

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