Kentucky’s Wenyen Gabriel, who started 23 games for the Cats but saw his playing time diminish as the season wore on, has been hitting the gym hard in a brief return home to Massachusetts in preparation for next year.
Mass Rivals, Gabriel’s former club team, hooked up the UK sophomore-to-be with a personal trainer that has him working out five days a week on strength, flexibility and agility in addition to his basketball regimen. He’ll get about five weeks in before he returns to Lexington for summer classes.
“He’s been in, and he’s been a hard worker,” said T1 Training owner and trainer Tyler Haugh. “He stays late. He’s doing extra basketball drills and stuff with another guy after workouts probably four or five days a week. He’s dedicated.”
“We use it (boxing) for conditioning,” Haugh said. “We have different conditioning for each day we have the guys in. It’s good for a confidence thing. You’re not going to punch people in basketball, but to know that you could handle yourself if you had to? The confidence goes way up when the guys start boxing. And it’s fun. It’s better than running sprints.”
The facility’s Facebook page has a short clip of Gabriel swatting the top markers on a vertical leap apparatus and a photo of him working on his vertical over some short hurdles.
“We’re working on getting the vertical up there, that was another thing he really wanted to work on and that’s going to come with the strength training and the flexibility,” Haugh said. “His hips were tight when he got here. They are feeling a lot better and this is just week three.”
Haugh has been impressed with Gabriel’s gains in such a short amount of time and said he can’t wait to post before and after pictures once his time with Gabriel is up.
“He’s had some tremendous progress. We took a two week picture. and he was like ‘holy crap.’” Haugh said. “I was kind of surprised at what he got out of it in two weeks. We hammered down the nutrition with him, too. We make sure he’s getting the right food he needs to be eating. He’s way into it. He was all in.”
T1 Training is about 109 miles from Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass., where Gabriel played his high school ball. T1 has worked with about 11 pro-level athletes since moving to its new facility in Amesbury, Mass., last year, including six pro hockey players, and it looks to double that number in the next year, Haugh said.
Gabriel and his brother, Mabor, who’s also seen in the boxing video, take the train each day to the facility, Haugh said. Mabor, who played at a couple of community colleges in Kansas and an NAIA school in Georgia, is looking to catch on professionally in the D-League or Europe, Haugh said.
Gabriel averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game as a freshman, largely sharing time with senior Derek Willis. But his role dwindled down the stretch as Coach John Calipari relied more and more on Willis when the team entered the postseason. Gabriel scored a season high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds against LSU on Feb. 7 and had a season-high 16 rebounds against Auburn on Jan. 14.
While yet another No. 1 recruiting class is set to come in at Kentucky, Gabriel will probably benefit from his experience. Though competition remains stiff, the goal apparently remains the same.
“I think the plan is come back here next year to get ready for the (NBA) Draft,” Haugh said. “He’s just the nicest kid, very respectful, just a good young man. He was just ready to work. He came in and said ‘tell me what you want me to do.’ If you just lay it out, he’s going to do it.”