High School Basketball

Kentucky fans will get look at new commitment Gabriel in December event at Dunbar

Team Doo Be Doo's Wenyen Gabriel #22 in action against Team EZ Pass in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.  (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Team Doo Be Doo's Wenyen Gabriel #22 in action against Team EZ Pass in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) AP

No one around Wenyen Gabriel expected a post-commitment letdown from the five-star basketball recruit after his pledge to the University of Kentucky this month.

No one around the future Wildcat has been disappointed.

Gabriel — a 6-foot-10 forward in the class of 2016 — went from unranked to top-10 national prospect during a summer that saw years of hard work ultimately pay off with scholarship offers from UK, Duke and Kansas (and an eventual commitment to the Cats).

Instead of taking a much-deserved break, Gabriel has redoubled his efforts going into his final season of high school.

His high school coach, Mike Mannix, offered a recent example of that work ethic.

This past weekend marked fall break at Wilbraham & Monson Academy, and that meant an extra two days off from classes at the Massachusetts high school.

Mannix said all of his players went home for the break — In Gabriel's case, that's Manchester, N.H. — and two days into the vacation, each player got a text message from Mannix outlining a workout routine to complete during their time off.

Gabriel responded to his coach two hours later to say he was already finished.

Mannix chuckled as he recalled the exchange, but he wasn't surprised.

"He just understands what it's going to take, in terms of the level of commitment," Mannix told the Herald-Leader. "When he goes in the gym, he's not wasting any repetitions. There's no time off. He doesn't sit there for 10 minutes and play around on his phone. He goes in, he gets to work."

Gabriel will get to show off his game to UK fans sooner than originally expected.

Wilbraham & Monson has been scheduled to play in the Thoroughbred Classic — a new showcase that will be played at Paul Laurence Dunbar on Dec. 12-13.

The event was organized by the same people behind the Marshall County Hoop Fest, and the four-game lineup features top national prospects such as Thon Maker, Rawle Alkins and Jarred Vanderbilt — all players that UK has recruited at one time or another.

Wilbraham & Monson is set to play against Maker's team at 8 p.m., on Dec. 12 (ticket information will be announced soon), and Mannix said Gabriel can't wait for the opportunity.

"When we talked about it a week or so ago, his face just lit up," he said.

Gabriel is currently UK's top-rated commitment for next year's class.

John Calipari recruited him to Lexington to play on the perimeter, and much of his work this fall has been centered on preparing for that role.

Mannix said that — in addition to putting more weight on his 195-pound frame — Gabriel has focused on developing a more consistent jump shot and tightening up his ball handling while maintaining already-solid post skills that should help him exploit mismatches at the next level.

Ranked by Scout.com as the No. 10 player in the loaded class of 2016, Gabriel has as much upside as anyone in the country. And he fully understands what he's getting into.

"He didn't choose Kentucky — and to play for Coach Cal — just because of the success on the court and the chance to maximize his own potential," Mannix said. "He knows that Kentucky and Big Blue Nation are really special things. And he understands the history. He understands how important Kentucky basketball is in the whole state of Kentucky, and not just the city of Lexington."

"He's really looking forward to being a part of something as special as Kentucky basketball."

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