Wenyen Gabriel had a career-high 16 rebounds in Kentucky’s 92-72 win over Auburn on Saturday. The 6-foot-9 freshman forward was born in Khartoum, Sudan, and moved to the United States as a toddler. He played high school basketball in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Rivals ranked Gabriel the No. 13 player in the Class of 2016.
What was the process of the move from the Sudan to the United States for your family?
We were in Sudan and then we moved to Egypt for a year and lived a year in Cairo, Egypt, and then my mom sold everything she had and we made it over to Manchester, New Hampshire. We lived on the west side there and we’ve been living in Manchester ever since then. She said when we came over on the plane I didn’t even have any shoes on my feet – sold everything.
Is Manute Bol your biggest basketball role model?
Yeah, I met him before. He came up to our Sudanese community before, up in Manchester. It was sad to see him go. When we think of Sudan and the NBA, that’s who we think of.
Who are the others?
Obviously, everyone knows Luol Deng, from the tribe, and Thon Maker was just drafted last year. I just played against him a few months ago and now he’s in the NBA. Deng Adel as well. Now we’ve been provided the opportunity to play basketball elsewhere, we’re starting to see a lot of success. I think it brings hope to other people.
Do you have much of a relationship with Deng?
I’ve just played against him a few times and we’ve talked on Snapchat a few times.
How did you pick your number?
32. It’s in honor of my late cousin, who passed away. That was his number.
How close were you guys?
He was my mom’s sister’s son. When they came over to America, our families stayed really close to help each other out, so that was like my brother. He drowned in the river.
How did your mom’s work ethic rub off on you?
She was always working two jobs, maybe three sometimes. She comes home and then she’ll be cleaning, cooking, telling us work’s never killed nobody. It made me want to help her out.
What does your mom do now?
She is a nursing assistant.
Have any of her other kids been athletes and received scholarships?
Yeah, so my older brother, he didn’t play basketball – well, his career ended in high school, but he went to college and paid his own tuition and everything. My older sister plays overseas in Germany. She graduated from Boston College. I have an older brother who is playing at an NAIA school called Coastal Georgia, and then it’s me. I have a younger brother who is a junior in high school. I have a little sister who just went to prep school for basketball.
How many kids are there in the family?
Six of us total. VT