UK Men's Basketball

Wenyen Gabriel: No longer do aspiring players ‘live and die’ by NBA Draft

The progression of Wenyen Gabriel in 26 photos

Photos of Wenyen Gabriel from the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 Kentucky basketball seasons.
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Photos of Wenyen Gabriel from the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 Kentucky basketball seasons.

Kentucky players and the NBA Draft bring one image immediately to mind: the green room, shaking hands with the commissioner and basketball’s version of living happily ever after.

But as Wenyen Gabriel said Thursday, there are different paths to the top of the basketball mountain.

“There are different ways to make it in the league,” Gabriel said. “You saw with ‘Zay (Isaiah Briscoe). He went overseas for a year. Now, he came into the league. . . . It’s a long journey. You just have to be consistent and keep trying to improve and continue to be a good person. Work on your game every day, and things will come.”

Briscoe, who was part of UK’s three-headed backcourt monsters in 2015-16 and 2016-17, was not picked in the 2017 NBA Draft. He played in Estonia last season. His team won the championship.

Earlier this offseason, Briscoe signed a three-year contract with the Orlando Magic.

Gabriel was not picked in this year’s NBA Draft. He ultimately signed a two-way contract with the Sacramento Kings.

For many seasons, college players sought assurance of being drafted, many times wanting to be confident of a first-round selection. If that assurance was not forthcoming, players would return to college.

But Gabriel said that recent changes, including two-way contracts that enable players to split time in the G League and the NBA, make not being drafted more tolerable.

“It’s not live or die by the draft,” he said. “You can still make it in your career going forward.”

Gabriel, who averaged 6.8 points for UK last season, became an instant icon by making seven of seven three-point shots against Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals.

Kentucky sophomore Wenyen Gabriel talks to the media after going 7-for-7 on three-pointers in his team’s SEC Tournament semifinal win over Alabama.

He said he’s enjoyed his time in Sacramento and will now turn his attention to the Kings’ upcoming training camp in Las Vegas.

His goal will be to “take advantage of all opportunities,” he said.

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