Of the NBA decisions remaining, the one I’m probably dreading the most is Wenyen Gabriel’s. On today’s show, Matt Jones said he’s hearing that, in the very near future, Wenyen will announce that he is going to the draft and signing with an agent, ending his two-year career as a Kentucky Wildcat. After getting to know Wenyen, I wouldn’t judge him for that one bit, but it would really suck to lose a valuable veteran, a rarity on the roster these days.
While we wait to hear the verdict, here’s the case for Wenyen to stay, and the case for Wenyen to go.
• Get your degree
Wenyen is apparently on track to graduate after his junior year, meaning if he stays, he can leave Kentucky with a degree in hand next summer. Yes, he can always come back and finish that degree later on, but with a career playing overseas or in the G-League likely ahead of him, wouldn’t it be nice to get that finished up now?
• Win a national championship
Who knows whether or not that will happen next year, but I like Kentucky’s chances more if they’ve got a contributing junior on the roster. With Wenyen back, Kentucky will have another piece to the national championship contender recipe: a real veteran presence. Wenyen found his way as a role player and leader this season; another group of young players would only be better with him by their side.
• Prove there’s a place for juniors in Calipari’s system
I’m not going to put this on Wenyen, but if he leaves, it only furthers the narrative that elite recruits who don’t end up as one-and-dones or two-and-throughs don’t feel as though they have a place in Calipari’s system anymore. Given the departures of Kyle Wiltjer, Charles Matthews, Marcus Lee, Isaiah Briscoe, and now Sacha Killeya-Jones, that narrative is feeling closer and closer to the truth and I don’t like it.
• Capitalize on SEC Tournament performance
Wenyen’s perfect 7-7 three-point performance in the SEC Tournament semifinals is far and away the highlight of his career and, from an individual standpoint, probably won’t be topped. While his numbers dipped in the NCAA Tournament, no one will ever question whether or not Wenyen can shoot again. With that highlight reel in his pocket, now could be a great time to market himself.
• Provide for your family
This is the most obvious and understandable reason for anyone to do anything in life. Now 21, Wenyen will be one of the oldest players in his class, and with a stable of young bucks coming in — many of them shooters — he may have accepted that the minutes aren’t there and, drafted or not, it’s time for him to go make some money for his family.
If you need a reminder of Wenyen’s story, I encourage you to read my story on him from December 2016, as well as watch the segment SEC Network did on his relationship with his childhood friend Bol, which is clearly on his mind since he shared it again on Instagram this afternoon:
I get the question all the time "why are you always smiling?" Hopefully after sharing my story you'll understand why. The smile is a conscious effort to maintain positivity through any situation. It's a symbol that you cannot be broken. It's the continuous pursuit of positivity. It's the energy you're putting out to the world. The smile is the UpWay! Rest easy Bol for you will forever live through me! ??#32