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Kentucky Basketball Preview: Wenyen Gabriel

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As part of the 2016 recruiting class, Gabriel is expected to be key contributor in his freshman season.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky Media Day Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

#32 Wenyen Gabriel

Height: 6'9

Weight: 213 lbs

Position: Forward

Class: Freshman

High School: Wilbraham & Monson Academy

Hometown: Wilbraham, MA

Recruit ratings: Rivals: ***** (#13), ESPN: ***** (#14), 24/7: ***** (24), Scout: **** (#12), 247 ***** (#14)

HIGH SCHOOL STATISTICS (from NextCats)

Points Per Game: 22.0

Rebounds Per Game: 14.0

Assists Per Game: 6.3

Blocks per game: 7.0

One of the fastest risers in the 2016 class, 6’9 forward Wenyen Gabriel chose to attend the University of Kentucky over the likes of Duke University, University of Maryland, and University of Connecticut, among others. Gabriel is a member of Kentucky’s highly-regarded 2016 class and will look to make an immediate impact for the Wildcats this season.

2015/2016 Outlook: One of the best things that Gabriel brings to the table for the Kentucky Wildcats this season is versatility. At 6’9 and roughly 215 pounds, Gabriel has put on some strength and added weight since arriving to campus, which will benefit him well. John Calipari will be able to employ Gabriel in a variety of roles, playing on the perimeter as well as in the paint.

The other key part of Gabriel’s game that will make it hard to take him off the floor is his defense. Gabriel’s defensive ability was something that the Wildcats’ coaching staff noticed right off the bat during the evaluation period. He also knows that buying into the idea of playing high-level defense is one of the most integral aspects of John Calipari’s coaching method for young basketball teams.

“I definitely take pride in it,” Gabriel said in an exclusive interview with CoachCal.com. “That’s how I earn my way onto the court. I kind of feel like that’s part of my identity when I’m on the court, when I play.”

Gabriel still has a lot of room for improvement, especially in terms of his offensive game and continuing to get stronger, but his play has caught the eye of not only the coaching staff but of former Kentucky star Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns tweeted that he believes Gabriel will be a breakout player for the Wildcats this season.

With the ability to play multiple positions, “positionless” as Calipari often calls it, Gabriel has the ball skills to play on the perimeter while also having the size to play closer to the basket. With a mindset of being a great defender and rebounder, and playing with a high amount of energy, Gabriel will be able to carve out a defined role on a team filled with a lot of talent.

I have a feeling Kentucky fans are really going to love Gabriel as the season progresses.

Here are some Gabriel highlights from last summer.