Monday, September 28, 2015

UConn recruiting profile: Wenyen Gabriel

Wenyen Gabriel will be making an official visit to UConn this weekend, beginning on Friday. The 6-foot-10, 210-pound forward is one of the top-rated recruits in the nation (No. 17 overall, per rivals.com). All you have to do is look at the schools in his top five: Duke, Kentucky, Maryland, UConn and Providence.

While Providence (and, to a much lesser degree, UConn) may appear out of its league with the other three power-five schools, there's a reason why Gabriel's list is so varied, according to Mike Mannix, his coach at Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

"UConn and PC, relative to where we are, are local schools, and both are relevant on the national scene," Mannix said. "PC was the second school in the country to offer him a scholarship. He was at UConn's Midnight Madness last year, and Maryland was here last year, talking to him and watching him. They offered a scholarship a little bit later. Duke and Kentucky, they recruit pretty much the same circle of kids. With them, they're gonna wait until a kid has pretty much proven he's top 25, or at least top 50. Once he got in that range, that's when arguably the two best programs in the country got in on him."

Gabriel visited Maryland two weeks ago and Kentucky this past weekend. After this weekend's UConn visit comes PC, then Duke. Mannix believes he'll wait until making all five of his visits before coming to a decision. He also believes Gabriel's decision is still wide-open.

"Now it's time to see where you you fit best," Mannix said. "People use 'fit' all the time, but 'fit' has a lot of factors. It’s how you see yourself jelling with the head coach and coaching staff, with players when you meet the players on your visit, how you fit in as far as what they’re doing personnel-wise. It probably wouldn’t be a great fit if someone had four or five guys coming in at 3-4 position. All the schools he's looking at right now, they're pretty balanced in their recruiting."

Mannix added that Gabriel hopes to make his decision by November, but he's not pressuring himself to make it by then.

Gabriel was born in South Sudan and moved with his family to Manchester, N.H. at age 3. He spent three years at Manchester's Trinity High before transferring to Wilbraham & Monson, where he repeated his junior year and is now a senior.

"He's now become just as much of a 3 as he is a 4," said Mannix, who's in his second year at the helm after taking over for Chris Sparks (who was a former assistant to Glen Miller at Brown). "He's really worked on improving his game out on the perimeter. From where he was a year or two ago, he's much, much more comfortable out on the perimeter now. He can shoot the NBA 3 now."

Mannix added that Gabriel boasts a 3.6 grade-point average and is taking some high-level honors courses.

And here's perhaps a little feather in UConn's cap: Gabriel's roommate and close friend is Brendan Vessichio of Berlin, a two-guard who's getting looks from schools like Brown, Dartmouth, Holy Cross and Bucknell. Perhaps he'll put in a good word or two about the Nutmeg State?

Oh, and in case you were wondering: the first school to offer a scholarship to Gabriel? The University of New Hampshire, his home state school.

*** There's another Connecticut-born player getting some interest at Wilbraham & Monson -- and he'll likely be getting even more over the next year. Brycen Harris, a 6-8, 225-pound Class of'2017 forward/center from Coventry, is getting looks from Boston University, Holy Cross, BYU and Utah State right now, and could attract some bigger schools as either an undersized, throwback center or a hefty power forward in the coming months.

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