Wenyen Gabriel is Kentucky’s hardest worker right now, to the point Kenny Payne says the coaching staff is using him as an example of what the rest of the team needs to do to succeed.
“We just had a staff meeting and I told [John Calipari], [Wenyen’s] energy, his effort, what he’s giving us on the floor, just the fight of it, is an example of what we need every player to do,” Kentucky’s associate head coach said this morning.
Gabriel may only average 6.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, but his energy and effort are a big reason Kentucky’s won some games they probably should have lost. After disappearing in the second half of his freshman season, Gabriel has rediscovered his game, which Payne says makes him the perfect role model for a historically young squad.
“This kid came here with a bunch of expectations and it’s easy to get lost in what you are and who you are as a player. He’s finally getting back to being the player that he is: an energy guy, a tough guy, a rebounding guy. Obviously, we’d like him to make better decisions handling the ball. He has some unforced turnovers at times, but his energy, his fight, his determination to play winning basketball, is really good right now.”
Gabriel’s hustle was a big part of Kentucky’s win at Vanderbilt; Payne said they’re using his film to show the younger guys what they must do to go on the road and win in an ever-improving SEC.
“One of the things we’re trying to do, we’re trying to be a great road team. A team that can go on the road and fight and get a win; that starts with guys like Wenyen. That kind of fight, that kind of determination to fight for a rebound. That kind of determination to block a shot at a pivotal time in the game. Take a charge. Dive on a loose ball.”
“When you’re playing road games, every little situation on the court, every possession matters. We need that from more than Wenyen, but he’s an example of why we show film and why we show players, the younger guys, ‘Look at what he’s done. Look at how he fought to get that offensive rebound and he was outside of the three-point line.'”
Look at how he swatted and saved the ball on this badass play:
Wenyen Gabriel ate his Wheaties this morning ðŸ’ªðŸ¿
– UK Basketball (14-3) (@BBNation15) January 13, 2018
From liability to leading by example, Wenyen is proving that hard work pays off.