Keith Gabriel is a 25 year old 190cm guard that will be playing his third professional season and first in Germany with the Kirchheim Knights. He started his basketball career in 2008 with VMI(NCAA) where he played until 2012 playing a total of 124 NCAA games and as a senior he played 33 games: 17.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.9apg, 1.8spg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 54.7%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 74.5%.in 2012-2013 he started his professional basketball career for Norrkoping Dolphins (Sweden-Basketligan): EuroChallenge: 12 games: 6.8ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 51.4%, 3PT: 42.3%, FT: 71.4%; Swedish Basketligan: 28 games: 8.1ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT: 42.7%, FT: 63.9%. Last season he played for KB RTV 21 Prishtina (Kosovo-SuperLeague): 4 games: 17.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.0apg, 2.0spg, in Dec.’13 moved to Petrolina AEK Larnaca (Cyprus-Division A): 6 games: 7.0ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.2spg. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Keith thanks for talking to German Hoops. You will be starting your third professional season and first in Germany. What were the main reasons for coming to Germany?
My reason for coming to Germany was to be able to play in a good country with good competition, show my abilities on the court and win a championship.
What do you know about the country Germany and basketball in particular in Germany? You have some friends that have played in Germany. Was there anyone in particular from your friends that helped you with your decision most?
One thing I know about German basketball is Dirk Nowitzki. He’s a great player and I have admired him ever since he joined the NBA. I also knew that there was a lot of good competition across Germany. I talked to a couple of my good friends about the league and also the city. Just to name a few, Trey Hampton, Frankie Sullivan, and Tavares Speaks, which played here in Kirchheim last season. When asking them about the opportunity they all just told me to go for it and everything was all positive about the league and the city.
Kirchheim is a pretty young team and with the exception of Ben Beran have three other Americans that will be playing their first season in Germany. What has been your impression oft he team so far?
My impression of the team is that, yes, we are young, but we have a great group of guys that come in day in and day out. Everyone is on the same page and everyone wants to come in, play their role and win.
Your new teammate, Enosch Wolf won the 2011 NCAA title with Kemba Walker. Have you bombarded him with any Walker questions or are you waiting for the right time? lol. What would you really like to know about Kemba Walker if you could ask it?
Yeah man, its great to have someone on my team that has accomplished such a big goal and play with players such as Kemba. Haha I wouldn’t say “bombard”. Back in high school, Kemba and I played against each other at 5 star camp in “Philly Camp”. He was a very cool and down to earth person and knew how to handle being a star. One thing I asked Enosch was if he was still humbled after winning a championship and knowing he was going to be a lottery pick in the 2011 draft. Enosch told me that he was still humbled and one of the hardest workers he knew.
You were a big time scorer at VMI, but as a professional you haven´t score das extensively as when you were in college. Has your role primarly changed as a professional according to the certain situations and what kind of role do you expect in Kirchheim?
At VMI, my role was to score the ball. Thats what I did. My first two years overseas, it has been a bit difficult to find my role because I joined the team after games were already being played and I didn’t feel like I got a chance to start from scratch and grow with the team. I was young, and not mature enough to handle the situation by just being thrown into the fire and trying to fit in. Thats another reason I was excited to accept this contract from Kirchheim because it really gave me a chance to work during preseason and start from scratch with the team.
You are a dynamic and explosive player who can give the team a burst of energy. However what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
Well, I have two answers for this question. Physically, a hidden strength of mine would be my ability to get off ball steals. Mentally, one strength that I have developed has been a “Remember the good, forget the bad” mentality and able to move onto the next play. I think thats a strength that good players must have to be successful on any level.
After a solid rookie season in Sweden, you had a rather up and down season last year in Kosovo and Cyprus. Was it pretty much a season to forget from your standpoint?
Last season was definitely a tough season for me. From injuries, to getting released, and just not achieving any of the goals that I had sat out for myself to accomplish for that year. Would I consider it a year to forget? Not at all! After leaving Cyprus, I spent a few months in Greece spending time with my twin brother, Kenny. It was the best months I’ve had since I have been overseas. Being able to watch his games, going over film before and after games just helping him strengthen his weaknesses and being around for the next game to see that he made a conscious effort to strengthen the things that we discussed. I felt like we both learned a lot from that experience and how to handle on the court and off the court situations to become better professionals in Europe.
As a rookie you played in Sweden for Norrkopig. Your teammate was Swedish basketball legend Fred Drains who was playing his 12th season fort he club as you were a rookie. What kind of relationship did you have with him and what could you generally learn from him on and off the court?
Our relationship was like Big Brother/Little Brother, Mentor/Mentee, and just a great friendship. I still talk to Fred today. He was such a humbled, hard working, and a great guy/player. One thing that I learned from Fred on the court was that anyone can be a leader with words, but it is more respectable when you lead with your actions. There would be times we would have to run and I would be tired, I look at Fred and he is just breathing calmly and in my head I am thinking, “How is this guy not tired at his age?” It was definitely a blessing to become teammates with someone of his caliber.
You played at Virginia Military Institute from 20082-012. You were a Big South Conf. Tournament Finalist in 2009 and 2012. If you look back at your career in college, how disappointing was it bowing out in 2 big finals? What was missing from the team winning a title?
Looking back at my college career, I always get a bitter taste in my mouth because I feel like I could have done so many things better to help my team and put us in better situations to win more games than we did. In 2009, I feel like we had all the right pieces from the team to the coaching staff, to win the conference tournament and play in March Madness. That day just wasn’t our day. In 2012, we made a great run to get to the championship game, we just ran out of gas. Furthermore, the team that we played (UNCA) they had a great team and they fought hard to win that game. Have to give credit where credit is due.
Duggar Baucom was your coach for four years at VMI. How did he prepare you best for a professional career on and off the court that has helped you mature as a professional?
Duggar Baucom prepared me just by forcing me to grow from a teenage kid to maturing into a respectful, hardworking young man. I feel like those characteristics alone gave me a chance to have a good professional career.
You have a twin brother Kenny that playys for Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir in Turkey this season. I guess the most noticeable difference is he has 19 inches on you. How has your relationship been over time and what has been the most important thing he has given to you as advice on and off the court?
The advice that he gives on the court is just constantly reminding me to do more defensively and get more rebounds from the guard position. Off the court, he gives me a lot of advice. He has two young boys, Kenny Jr. and Kameron. He just tells me that I don’t have as much responsibility right now so I have to take advantage of that and make sure that I stay in the gym to continue to expand my game.
I have seen that you have a very close relationship with NBA player Anthony Morrow. How important has he been to you as a friend?
Anthony and I are definitely very close. He has been a big brother to me for many years. We workout together over the summer, play on the same team for his ProAm League in Charlotte, and talk on a daily basis when I leave to come overseas. Even though he is in the NBA, it’s good to see how hungry he is to keep getting better and working harder during the offseason to continue developing as a player. Things like that really influence those around you. I am definitely looking forward to seeing him play with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. It’s going to be an exciting year of NBA basketball for me. #ThunderUp
If you had to compare the landscape around Kirchheim with that in Charlotte, could one say that the differences aren´t that extreme? Has the surrounding area in Germany been able to remind you a little of North Carolina?
In my opinion, Kirchheim is pretty different from Charlotte. Charlotte is a very large city and has a large population. Kirchheim on the other hand, is a very small city and when I take walks around the city, there’s hardly any people around. Kirchheim is definitely a beautiful place to be and a laid back atmosphere, which fits my style and personality.
You and just about every other human being ha staken the ALS Ice bucket challenge. What has been the most original video that you have seen?
The most original ALS Ice bucket challenge video was Charlie Sheen’s. I thought his video was very good. While we are on this subject, I just want to recognize two significant people that I have had the pleasure of getting to know while I attended VMI. The first one was Les Sparks who was my VMI teammates’ father (Michael Sparks). Les Sparks passed away from ALS on March 12, 2010. Secondly, Tony Conway who was the assistant VMI Soccer coach. Tony has been diagnosed with ALS for a couple of years, but he is still happy, fighting through ALS, and living life. Lastly, prayers to all of those effected with ALS and the families as well!
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
The last movie that I saw was “Assault on Wall Street”. It was definitely an interesting movie that I enjoyed quite a bit. If you haven’t watched it, I would definitely check it out!
Thanks Keith for the chat