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Wenyen Gabriel: “I play like my life’s on the line every game”

Wenyen Gabriel and coach John Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)

Wenyen Gabriel and coach John Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Wenyen Gabriel figured out quickly that his way to earn playing time was to play with unusually high energy — and through three games he’s done that.

“Every time I step on the court, I’m trying to win. I kind of feel like I play like my life’s on the line every game that I’m in. Just trying to get better every time,” said Gabriel Friday as UK prepared to host Duquense Sunday night.

Gabriel again emphasized that his playing style goes back to his familiy.

“I got a big family and coming over from South Sudan, coming here with nothing is kind of like—I feel like I’m earning everything that I’m working for. I feel like that’s how I get it, by how I play so hard,” Gabriel said.

He says his energy starts with practice preparation.

“Practice is a lot of work and practice is just as hard if not harder. And just being ready to compete. The adrenaline’s pumping during the game. You just want to win every time,” Gabriel said. 
“I’m not too worried about coming off the bench or starting. I’m kind of just trying to get better every day and at the end of the day that’s what it is about. I’m trying to get better and I’m going to earn what I deserve.”

Gabriel pays attention to what is happening before he comes into the game, too.

“I’m watching to see what we need. If we’re missing out on rebounding, I’m going to try to go in the game and get rebounds. If we need to pick up the intensity on the defensive end, I’m going to try to pick up the intensity. If we need to score some more, I’m going to try to get to the basket and score. That’s what I’m trying to do,” the UK freshman said Friday.

He likes to surprise opponents with his play.

“My length and my activity on the defensive end has been one of my advantages. I’m going to try to use that to try to find more playing time and define myself as a player on the defensive end,” Gabriel said.

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