There’s a good chance Wenyen Gabriel won’t hear his name called at the NBA Draft Thursday night. Regardless, John Calipari said there’s a place for his former player at the next level because he’s proven himself as a shooter.
“Wenyen, a couple of the teams he worked out for late in that first round, really liked him,” Calipari said on today’s NBA Draft teleconference. “Reason is, he’s 6’10” and he can really shoot and that’s kind of where the league is going. Now, physically, he’s gotta get stronger and I think in an NBA environment, I think within a year, you would see someone who is 6’10”, physically able to battle, and can really shoot it. Right now, the physical part is a little tougher for him but again, I think if someone could get him in that late second, that’s a steal in my mind.”
Calipari said Wenyen was determined to make the jump to the next level, even at the risk of going undrafted.
“My hope is he goes somewhere in the second round. He may not. You know what, either way, he’s probably going to have to go through the G-League and work his way, figure out, ‘I’ve gotta get stronger,’ and all those kind of things. He wanted to go for it and he was adamant, ‘I’ve gotta do this, Coach’. So, at that point, my shift is, how do I help him? What teams are you working out for? Who can I call? I’ll give you a feel for what they’re saying.”
You’ve heard him say it plenty of times before, but Calipari reminded reporters that encouraging kids to stay in school for his own benefit isn’t his style.
“I don’t have, at any point with any of these kids, overriding,” Cal said. “I think in this, you try to be honest, which is what we do in the recruiting process. We’re not going to oversell them, tell them, ‘You come back and I’m going to do this, that and the other.’ It’s not what I do, it’s what they do. If you’re honest with them and say, ‘Look, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get drafted,’ [they’ll say] ‘I know, but I want to do this.'”
One more time, for the seats in the back!
“I think it’s bad business, trying to override [players’ NBA Draft decisions]. ‘You have to come back’ or ‘I’m going to play you like this so you’ll be able to show’ — I’m not doing that. At the end of the day, you’re not tricking the NBA. At the end of the day, you cannot play around whatever weakness you have.”
Wenyen wouldn’t be the first of Calipari’s players to work his way through the G-League. Calipari used Dakari Johnson and Andrew Harrison as examples of players who have used the system to their benefit in recent years.
“I think there are teams in the league that really utilize [the G-League] and I think the success of those teams, Oklahoma City and a couple others, the other teams will move towards that. Literally, we’re not just having a team to have a team. We want these kids to get on that court, we want them to play. It’s hard to get better not playing and like Dakari [Johnson], we can talk about Andrew Harrison, who earned his space on the Grizzlies and they love him. I’ve had guys that have gone second round and had to play their way into the NBA and it’s a great way of doing it. And the up and down stuff, which is now you have some two-way contracts, which I think are beneficiary to those kinds of kids, too.”