Kentucky's 2016 basketball recruiting class is certainly loaded. With the likes of Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Bam Adebayo, it is perhaps the best that John Calipari has ever assembled.
Those three are the stars, and all are likely lottery picks for the 2017 NBA draft. While the Big Three are making headlines, one key player for this upcoming season is flying severely under the radar.
Former Wildcat Karl Anthony-Towns, who knows plenty about being a star player, hasn't forgotten about Kentucky's fourth five-star recruit. Twitter hosted a Q&A session with the NBA Rookie of the Year, and he highlighted one player in particular as a breakout player for this season.
Wenyen Gabriel is a top-15 recruit for this season and is a 6'9" power forward with wing capabilities. Gabriel comes exactly how John Calipari likes them, long and completely versatile.
With a confident jump shot out on the perimeter and the ability to put the ball on the floor, Gabriel gives Kentucky a little bit of everything on the basketball court.
John Calipari has speculated numerous times pertaining Wenyen Gabriel that he wants to make a wing-forward out of him. In a basketball world today that circulates around versatility and skill, there is tremendous upside for Gabriel in that regard. He does have a similar size and stature to that of Kevin Durant, in terms of being lanky but tough.
Gabriel’s high school coach, Mike Mannix, talked with the Union Leader about Gabriel’s rise and what’s made him a special player with no position.
"In the last 12 months, he's worked really hard on his ability to put the ball on the floor and get by his opponent," Mannix said. "He's to a point now where he can beat his man off the dribble with different footwork, and dribble combinations by improving that ball handling.
"All of that has really helped to make him that combo forward instead of just like a power forward."
Gabriel himself simply wants to impact a game and help his team win in whatever way is required of him.
"I see myself as an impact player and that's what I am aiming to show I can be from the start," Gabriel said. "The hope is that I can just get a lot of good minutes this year and I'm looking forward to making the most of them.
"My motor and length have been important parts to my game. They're really going to continue to be big tools for me as I go."
Gabriel is a bit of a project at this stage of his career. He is a Swiss Army knife of skill and talent that doesn't particularly do one thing better than another; similar in that regard to Nicholas Batum of the Charlotte Hornets, who got a $120 million contract this offseason.
Gabriel is, however, going to the master of turning projects into stars. We will just have to see what John Calipari can do with Wenyen Gabriel's talents throughout his tenure at Kentucky.