Kings forward Wenyen Gabriel is one of 25 active NBA players who attended the University of Kentucky, but his journey to the league is far from common.
“I’m 100 percent pure-bred, South Sudanese and I take pride in that.”
Gabriel emigrated to Egypt when he was just a year old to escape a brutal civil war, before eventually getting to the U.S. as a refugee through the United Nations. His first name, Wenyen, means “wipe your tears” in Sudanese, and Gabriel takes that message to heart.
“I’ve kind of taken it on going forward, that I’m going to wipe the tears from my family, wipe the tears from my country.”
Gabriel was also a college teammate of Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, who has been more than impressed by Gabriel throughout his career.
“He’s great, I mean he’s been through a lot, but that’s why he works so hard,” Fox said.
“I met him like our senior year, before we were both committed to Kentucky, and he reached out to me.”
Gabriel went undrafted in 2018 and was signed to a two-way contract by Sacramento, playing in 42 games for the Stockton Kings in the G League. The big man averaged 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
His game really made waves this summer, as he averaged just over 15 points and seven rebounds in six summer league games, while also shooting 42 percent from three.
Despite the small sample size, an ability to stretch the floor at his size and athleticism will make Gabriel a valuable commodity for a young Kings team looking to make some noise in the Western Conference.