In the days and weeks following former UVa assistant coach Ritchie McKay’s departure and before Brad Soderberg was named to the staff, Technology and Scouting assistant Vic Sfera hit the road recruiting to assist in evaluating prospects. Sfera made the initial contact on behalf of the Hoos with 6’10” forward/center Wenyen Gabriel, who received a full scholarship offer from head coach Tony Bennett this past Sunday.
Gabriel is finishing up his junior year at Wilbraham & Monson, a prep school in Wilbraham, New Hampshire, that competes on the Class AA level in the NEPSAC. This is Gabriel’s first year at Wilbraham & Monson, where he transferred after attending Trinity Catholic (Manchester, N.H.) the previous year. When he transferred, Gabriel reclassified from the class of 2015 to the class of 2016, and the decision has paid dividends.
“His development has been really exciting to watch,” Wilbraham & Monson head boys varsity basketball coach Mike Mannix said. “He came in here and established himself as the most skilled true big man we had. He also proved he could step outside and that he also had a great set of perimeter skills to go along with his post skills. He actually came in here with more of a perimeter background than interior. We asked him to play the 5, and he started to cement himself as our best back-to-the-basket player. We had another player start to emerge as a true center, so we were able to move Wenyen to the 4 after New Year’s. We used him as a stretch 4. He could handle. He played in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop.”
Late in the 2014/2015 season, in a game Wilbraham & Monson had to have to make their conference tournament, Gabriel shined, pouring in 30 points including the game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.
“He hit a 22-foot jump shot as the clock expired to go into overtime. That was in the second week of February. You could just tell, from there on out he had ice water in his veins. He was making big shot after big shot,” Mannix said.
“After the first of the year, he started coming into his own. He started to blossom to where he was a true rim protector.”
Gabriel’s confidence and game “rolled...
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