2017-18 SEC Player Preview: Wenyen Gabriel

In Features by Blake Lovell

Wenyen Gabriel is Kentucky’s top returning scorer this season.

He averaged 4.6 points per game last year.

Of course, this situation is nothing new for the Wildcats. After losing the top seven scorers from a season ago, John Calipari has simply rebuilt his roster with yet another promising freshman class.

But while all of this year’s 5-star prospects have garnered much of the attention this offseason, it’s one of last year’s 5-star prospects in Gabriel that has made significant strides and figures to be a big part of the rotation.

The 6-9 forward has completely transformed his body in adding a solid amount of strength and mass which will compliment an already talented skillset and allow him to be one of Kentucky’s top contributors this season.

Inside the Numbers

Last season’s numbers don’t really tell the full story on Gabriel due to all the talent on the roster.

He only managed 17.8 minutes per game, but he was still a valuable piece of the puzzle in starting 23 games and adding 4.8 rebounds per contest.

His season highs in minutes and points came in 92-85 win over LSU as he scored 23 points in 31 minutes of play. While not entirely consistent, Gabriel also knocked down 23 3-pointers on the season, a number that should go up this year.

And while he only hit double-figures in scoring in seven games, there figures to be a lot more of those on the horizon for the talented sophomore.

Lovell’s Analysis

Along with fellow sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones, Gabriel figures to be a significant factor in Kentucky’s march towards another SEC regular season title.

His energy and versatility will give Calipari options in terms of how he wants to use him within this revamped roster, and it’ll simply be a matter of seeing what type of role Gabriel can carve out on both ends of the floor.

There are always unknowns when it comes to building chemistry with so many new players, but Gabriel has the type of game that should blend in nicely with all the Wildcats’ new faces.

Of course, the added strength will also be a huge asset in helping him be an effective scorer and rebounder in a physical conference like the SEC.

But to make that significant leap forward, he’ll need to offer consistency. While that’s not always easy to do as a freshman, it’ll be expected of him as a sophomore considering that he’s the most experienced player on the roster.

If he can add that layer of consistency on both offense and defense, Gabriel should be able to give Kentucky that extra depth that it needs to make a deep run come March.

Blake Lovell is the founder of Southeast Hoops. He also hosts the Marching to Madness (national college basketball) and Southeast Hoops (SEC basketball) podcasts, which include interviews with coaches around the country. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Athlon Sports, Rivals, FanRag Sports, and many more.