Haiti->Kentucky->Sacramento Mon, Jul 24, 2017
We all remember the devastating earthquake that ravaged the tiny Caribbean island of Haiti in 2010, but what you probably didn't know is that current Sacramento King and former Kentucky Wildcat, Skal Labissiere, was one of those Haitian children who was trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building.
As the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the western hemisphere's poorest country on January 12th, Skal's 3 story family home came crashing down on himself, his mom, and his younger brother, who were all in the family's living room when the shaking began.
With a collapsed wall leaning against his back and rubble all around him, Skal was forced to sit among the debris in a crouched position for over 3 hours before his dad and neighbors pulled him out. The prolonged crouching wrecked the limbs of a growing 13 year old (who's now 6'11"), leaving him unable to walk for weeks after.
With schools, homes, and city infrastructure in shambles, the devastating aftermath of the earthquake forced Skal's parents to make the gut-wrenching decision to send him to America to get an education and develop his basketball skills beyond the options available to him in Haiti.
By August of 2010, Skal had moved to Memphis, Tennessee and by July of the following year, he'd already begun receiving scholarship offers from major D1 programs. In 2015, he signed to play at Kentucky as the #1 high school recruit in the country and in 2016 he was picked in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings.
Becoming a professional athlete is an amazing success story by any standard, but for a kid who had his life literally crumble around him and moved to America without knowing a word of English, his is a story that surpasses every sports cliché you've ever heard.
Before this week, Skal hadn't been back to Port-Au-Prince since moving to Memphis in 2010. This week, with the help of the NBA and the Kings, he's back in his home country for the first annual Camp S.K.A.L. (Skills, Knowledge, and Life) to be a beacon of hope for a country that still hasn't recovered. In addition to his inaugural skills camp, Skal also donated the country's first heartbeat detection machine that will allow rescue teams to find people trapped in rubble after a natural disaster.
The Kings social media team has been putting out great videos of Skal's trip back to Haiti. If you're interested in following along and seeing more of his trip as he visits his old neighborhood and reunites with childhood friends, check out http://www.nba.com/kings/skal-returns-haiti.