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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Skal’s First 8 Games in Comparison to Other Cal 5-Star Big Men

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Through 8 games of this season, a couple things are becoming clear.  First is this team is not last year, nowhere near last year, and probably won’t get to last year.  The depth at basically all positions (sans point guard) is lacking, the defense is not up to the standard of last year, and we don’t have a dominant big man.  On that note, I think it is also becoming clear that Skal Labissiere will play the role of Andrew Harrison this year and be the whipping boy of the fanbase.  And let me be clear, I am not saying that Skal has played significantly well this year.  He hasn’t.

But I also think people are focused on his rebounding numbers and the incident with Tyler Ulis and has come to the conclusion that Skal isn’t all that and a bag of chips.  But let’s do a little comparison using the other 5-star power forwards or centers of the Calipari era and how those other 10 guys fared in their first 8 games as a UK player:

Cousins: 14.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 0.4 apg, 2.4 bpg, 53.6% fg
Orton: 4.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.8 bpg, 45.8% fg
T. Jones: 20.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.3 bpg, 46.3% fg
Davis: 12.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, 4.5 bpg, 67.2% fg
Wiltjer: 6.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.9 bpg, 43.5% fg
Noel: 11.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 3.1 bpg, 52.8% fg
Randle: 18.1 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.6 bpg, 53.6% fg
Johnson: 5.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.3 bpg, 55.6% fg
Lee: 4.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.1 apg, 1.1 bpg, 71.4% fg
Towns: 8.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.4 apg, 2.6 bpg, 50.0% fg

AVERAGE: 10.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 2.0 BPG, 54.0% FG

SKAL’S AVERAGES: 12.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.4 APG, 2.1 BPG, 61.0% FG

Yes, the rebounding number stands out and certainly he will have to improve.  But IN GENERAL, Skal is performing at a level or above a level in many instances of most of the other Calipari, high-rated big men.  These first 8 games rarely give us an accurate picture of how a guy will turn out.

Did you know Anthony Davis would be player of the year after 8 games?  No way.

Didn’t you think Terrence Jones was a LOCK for 1st-team All-American?  Of course you did.

Didn’t you think that Karl Towns was the most overrated Calipari recruit?  Many of you did.

And frankly, we all looked stupid with those opinions by the time March rolled around.  Let the cake bake with Skal.  The guy is still developing his game and we want him to be Anthony Davis.  It’s unrealistic, leads to us being stressed and negative, which only is going to make for a negative experience for Skal.  The guy is averaging 12 points per game!  As an 18-year old!  Playing Duke and UCLA!

The fans who want to rip on Skal are not really mad at Skal, they are mad we lost.  If UK had won that game by 5 points on Thursday, Skal would be AOK in many fans book.  A developing big man, most would say.  But UK got creamed and got creamed by a goofy looking white guy, and so now we must call Skal a bust.  I just hope many of you don’t look foolish (again) come NCAA Tournament time. 

Article written by Bryan the Intern

23 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Skal’s First 8 Games in Comparison to Other Cal 5-Star Big Men

  1. blueboots
    8:15 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    What does race have to do with basketball? Are you saying white people can’t play? Please leave a persons skin color out of it thanks

    • Bryan the Intern
      9:10 am December 7, 2015 Permalink


    • madarchitect
      12:07 pm December 7, 2015 Permalink

      Seriously. That was distasteful.

  2. bosshogg24
    8:35 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    Alex is the one people need to worry about instead of Skal. Alex didn’t earn one meal that he ate on the trip, I believe he takes a sleeping pill before every game. I would start a walk on ahead of Alex until he decides to play. Most everyone on the team went to vacation and goof off instead of playing basketball!

  3. Blue_Cat75
    8:46 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    SKAL’S AVERAGES: 12.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.4 APG

    This is why fans are upset. We all KNOW he can be better than UCLA Skal.

  4. JDawg
    8:48 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    Just FYI, I told everyone that I spoke to that Anthony Davis would be the best player in UK history after watching the first 4 games. Just thought I’d throw that out there…..I was right.

    • UKmoney
      1:29 pm December 7, 2015 Permalink

      Exactly… Its called the eye test! Anybody with good basketball sense knew AD was special after a few games. Im sorry but Skal doesn’t pass the test for me. I hope he comes around quickly… There are a a lot of better big men in the SEC than Welsh and Plumlee!

  5. yarg
    9:06 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    This is the second post that has compared early year Anthony Davis to Skal. Not to bust on Skal at all, but both posts completely disregard Davis’s defense. You’re talking about the first 8 games while forgetting one of the most memorable games that season with Davis’s block to close out the UNC game. And they played Kansas that year within the first 8 games with him getting 7 blocks. So yes. Yes we absolutely knew Davis was MVP caliber by that point, man.

    • Dustin Rumbaugh
      9:54 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

      And the 6 more rebounds. The basic difference is pretty clear: Davis played with full effort. Every shot was his to block, every rebound was his to get. More than that though, Skal has moments of strong effort but its more akin to when a guard is pressing and making mistakes rather than a “move fast, think slow” form of effort. First he’ll just sit there and let a driving guard lob one over his head without jumping, next he’s leaving his feet for a block against a center head faking beyond the free throw line. The seeming lack of effort is something that could/should worry fans but I think by tournament time or sooner Cal and Kenny (haha southpark popped in my head just now) will have him playing a lot smarter and thinking a lot slower.

  6. BigBaldDA
    9:18 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    I think Skal has potential to improve dramatically as the year progresses, but this is terrible use of information comparisons. To skew the averages BTI uses stats from players that saw little court time compared to the starting minutes (which is what Skal has). Here is a comparison of the STARTERS from Cal’s other six big men freshmen.

    Averages: 14.2 ppg / 9.4 rpg / 1.6 apg / 2.6 bpg / 54%
    Labissiere: 12.0 ppg / 3.9 rpg / 0.4 apg / 2.1 bpg / 61%

    So realistically, he is currently performing below the average in every category except FG%. I’m confident he will get better, but misinformation to skew opinion is a pet peeve of mine.

  7. Mc12
    9:47 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    The 3.9 boards per game are somewhat alarming. I think he can learn how to get in better position. I’m hoping he can learn to play tougher and this corrects itself.

    My concern is his complete lack of awareness on defense. He has poor footwork, and poor anticipation. A lot of this may be attributed to his lack of playing over the past few years I’m not sure. However, I’m no so sure this can be taught.

    As many have posted, it’s silly to compare him to some of the players on this list. There are things that can’t be quantified. It’s clear when watching, that players aren’t afraid at taking it to Skal. Players like Davis, Noel, and even Cousins intimidated the other team. I stopped counting how many layups teams passed up on when Davis played.

    I’m not the kind of fan that is overly critical and realize it’s early in the season. I think this post is overly dramatic.

    However, I do hope that Skal’s awareness on defense picks up so we have a true rim protector that eventually intimidates opposing teams.

  8. Angelo
    9:52 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    Marcus Lee will have to rebound and Skal can do the scoring. Issac H might get better. Tyler will continue to out play Alex in the post…

  9. gazza90
    10:42 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    I don’t know if BTI is stupid or dishonest, but he should never be allowed to analyze stats. First, Lee, Johnson, Orton, and Wiltjer should clearly not be in this conversation, but BTI put them in there because their lack of playing time would make Skal look better in his statistically illiterate comparison. But even if we keep them in and adjust the stats on a per 40 minutes basis, you get a much different picture. Skal’s per 40 is 21.57 PPG and 6.97 RPG while the others are 20.60 PPG and 13.12 RPG. Every single one of the bigs he compared to Skal had a significantly better per 40 RPG than Skal. Even Wiltjer had a 9.14 per 40 RPG. So what we are left with is Skal has barely scored better than the average highly recruited big under Cal and he is barely getting half the rebounds of the others, but the problem is that Skal is (was) a possible number one NBA draft pick while Lee, Johnson, Wiltjer, and Orton were clearly projects and, trust me, Cal would not have recruited Orton.

    As for Towns and Davis at this time in their careers, I don’t know who BTI is referring to when he implies that people didn’t know how good they would be in December of their freshman year, but that doesn’t apply to NBA scouts and certainly not to me. I won a $100 bet that I made in November of last year that Towns would be the #1 NBA draft pick and I think it was pretty clear by this time in Davis’ freshman year that he was going to be, barring injury, the best player in the NBA at some point in his career.

    I want Skal to succeed and I want him to make a ton of money playing professional basketball. But right now, his offensive output does not begin to offset the tremendous liability he is on defense and as a rebounder. Until he improves in those areas, he can’t be on the floor for significant minutes against good teams. I presume he will improve, because if he doesn’t his draft stock is going to plummet and I don’t want to see that. But let’s not pretend that Skal is performing just like all the other UK bigs under Cal because he is not. At all.

    • RBT
      1:31 pm December 7, 2015 Permalink

      I agree with everything you said.

  10. UKBlue1
    11:01 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    Seriously, we need to find better things to do than constantly comparing past players with current players. This is like the 4 story on KSR comparing Skal to someone. Skal only has a couple years of actually experience playing basketball; he’s good, but he is also a major project.

    • gazza90
      11:10 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

      Totally agree, Skal’s struggles are not a reason to bash the kid personally. I think we need to take the attitude that Skal is just going to need more time to get to where he should be than some of the other bigs Cal has had because he has not played as much at a high level as the others and there is no shame in that. I just didn’t want to let BTI get by with implying that Skal is closer to where those other players were than he is. He has the skills to be very good and we just need to step back and let the process unfold.

  11. Sentient Third Eye
    11:18 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    Skal’s problem isn’t physical strength. That’s overrated in basketball. He just needs to learn to go after rebounds like he’s a piranha and somebody just tossed a steak in the water. That’s the attitude of a great rebounder.

  12. SwaggyCal
    11:22 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    Lets get to the point:

    Skal- stop playing like a little girl

    Poythress- start playing at all

  13. gazza90
    11:41 am December 7, 2015 Permalink

    I think people are being unfair to Poythress. Yes, his finishing around the rim is very frustrating, but we would have lost by 20 had he not played against UCLA. He is our 2nd best rebounder, just behind Lee and, at present, he is our only physical presence inside. At 6’8″, he is having to do a lot of the grunt work inside that Skal can’t. Plus he has only turned the ball over 2 times in 172 minutes.

    BTW, Briscoe is getting 7.6 rebounds per 40 compared to Skal’s 6.97. Also, take a look at Marcus Lee’s first 8 games per 40 stats freshman year compared to Skal’s first 8 (TPG is turnovers):

    Lee 22.5 PPG, 10.63 RPG, 0.6 APG, 5.6 BPG, 0.6 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 81% FG
    Skal 21.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 3.8 BPG, 2.9 TPG, 0.7 SPG, 61.0% FG

    • Sentient Third Eye
      12:15 pm December 7, 2015 Permalink

      I said earlier that Skal needs to pursue rebounds like piranha after a steak. Poythress needs to dunk like the basket has just punched his mother every time.

  14. UKmoney
    1:32 pm December 7, 2015 Permalink

    Comparing Skal to AD is ridiculous… Ive watched plenty of basketball in my life and there isn’t a player since Young Kobe that has the impact on both ends of the floor like the BROW… Please keep the greatest player in UK’s history off these lists. Its not fair to the other players

  15. kkskyrn
    5:16 pm December 7, 2015 Permalink

    I wouldn’t lay this all at Skal’s feet. I don’t think Calapari has figured out how to coach him yet. His job is to reach him and teach him . I don’t see that happening.

    • UK Big Board Update
      8:30 pm December 7, 2015 Permalink