Early this summer, a direct message between former Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel and former UK basketball target Jaden McDaniels leaked within recruiting circles.
Over the last few days, that private message was released to the public, causing quite a stir on social media.
In short, Gabriel told the former five-star target that unless he was ready to be a star right away at Kentucky, UK head coach John Calipari would “stop [him] from dribbling” and “tell [him] to just catch and shoot.”
“Ayo today I [saw] that Kentucky [was] recruiting you,” Gabriel wrote in the now-public message. “I did a predraft workout [with] your brother [Jalen McDaniels] last year. I [mess with] him so I feel like I should tell you about how I feel about Kentucky. In all honesty, the best part of Kentucky was the brothers that I have for life now.
“I can’t say I wish I didn’t go there because it still all worked out for me, but that [stuff] was [freaking] hard bro and I made a lotta mistakes,” Gabriel continued. “My first conversation with [Coach Cal] he said I was a 6’10 shooting guard… Don’t fall in love with his words let me tell you the real! You look like you could be the next [Kevin Durant] [for real]. But if you not ready to do it like right NOW. Like if you not ready to be one of the [STARS] and make all the plays… then [you’re going to] end up being just a skinny big man there. And trust me, that [stuff] is HARD. First thing’s first, if your handle is shaky, he’s [going to] stop you from dribbling. (That [stuff is going to mess you] up because [you’re going] to feel handicapped). Then he [is going to] tell you to just catch and shoot , or go set a slip screen and try to get open from there. But if there are no bigs, [you’re going to] be guarding all bigs…”
This afternoon, the official Kentucky men’s basketball social media accounts shared a video featuring a compilation of former Wildcats DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson discussing how difficult, yet rewarding it is to play at Kentucky.
“Being at Kentucky, it’s one of a kind,” the video began. “It’s not for everybody. … When you’re at Kentucky, you’re going to hit adversity, you’re going to hit a wall. … The expectations are always high. … Your will to break through, keep fighting, don’t let it get you down. … It’s the accountability. … Cal’s going to push you, he’s going to take it to the next level as a player, as a person. … Trust in your work, trust in the process. … You’ve got to be mentally strong and physically ready for that. This is a school for the big dogs, and if you’re not ready for it, then this school is probably not the place for you.”
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) October 23, 2019
Coincidence with the Gabriel message going viral in recent days? Maybe, but the former Kentucky forward certainly didn’t think so.
In response to the Kentucky basketball team’s post on Instagram, Gabriel finally cleared the air about his private message to McDaniels.
“This is literally what I was tryna say…” Gabriel wrote. “I apologized to [Calipari] like 3 months ago. The way it was worded definitely seems negative. But everyone who knows me knows what I stand for.”
On Monday, Gabriel earned a spot on the Sacramento Kings, with the organization converting the former Wildcat’s two-way contract into an actual roster spot.
During Sacramento’s four preseason games this year, Gabriel averaged 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.
At Kentucky, Gabriel averaged a combined 5.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and nearly one block per contest over the course of two seasons.
As for McDaniels, the former five-star forward out of Federal Way, WA signed with Washington in the spring and is now a freshman at UW.