Five star recruit Skal Labissiere might never play for Kentucky

Head coach John Calipari recruited Skal Labissiere but the five-star recruit might never play for him (©GettyImages)

Skal Labissiere is one hot ticket right now.

He's rated as one of the nation's top basketball recruits, a Haitian native who traveled to America and became an elite center in the high school ranks. And now he will be joining the prime time of college basketball, after announcing Thursday his commitment to play for the Kentucky Wildcats.

The decision continues head coach John Calipari's absurd recruiting run in recent years, with many scouting services giving his 2015 class the number one ranking once more after five-star guard Isaiah Briscoe also committed Thursday.

But while the 6-foot-11 athlete would be a great feather under any coach's cap, there are serious doubts that this star-crossed marriage will last very long. 

That uncertainty is due to a man whose name many basketball fans hadn't heard until this week, the high school coach and guardian of Labissiere.

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Shady dealings

AAU coach Keith Easterwood got a phone call two years ago that summed up everything wrong with the underworld of college basketball recruiting. It was from Gerald Hamilton, a coach who wanted to profit from a hotshot basketball player he had shipped in — and legally adopted — from a continent away.

"It was Gerald Hamilton," Easterwood told "He wanted to talk, and one of the things he asked me was, 'How can I make money off of a basketball player?'"

If one coach's word was the only indicator pointing at an instance where a player was clearly shopped to teams, that would be one thing. But there is plenty of evidence that Labissiere's basketball career so far has been anything but ordinary.

The center has played for two different high schools and three different summer teams, which is highly irregular. After shepherding his star pupil away from his last program, Hamilton began a nonprofit called "Reach Your Dream Prep," which amounts to a basketball team focused on Labissiere's talent.

Many coaches told CBS Sports that Hamilton made it clear they would have to offer up something for a commitment from Labissiere. That allegedly took many teams out of the running, who feared a strict NCAA ruling if any wrongdoing was discovered.

Should Calipari be worried?

That last part should have Kentucky's Calipari at least a little bit concerned. 

Including his current top-ranking class of 2015, the ball coach has had either the No. 1 or No. 2 rank every year since he joined the Wildcats in 2009, according to ESPN. But despite his success, Calipari has mostly avoided drawing scrutiny for his recruiting practices. 

The NCAA has left him alone in one of the most singularly dominant stretches in college basketball recruiting history.

But there is no secret that Hamilton and Labissiere were looking for compensation. And the center did eventually choose Kentucky.

Now there is no proof that Calipari did anything wrong in recruiting the star player, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

But after the shady nature of Labissiere's recruitment came to light in such a public way, it's hard not to think that the NCAA will be watching the program more carefully, and waiting for the first sign of subterfuge.

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