Kenny Gabriel (Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens) Living The Dream Going From Junior College To The Euroleague

Kenny Gabriel is a 28 year old 209cm forward from North Carolina playing his sixth professional season and second with Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (Greece-A1). Currently he is averaging 2,3ppg and 2,4rpg in the Euroleague. Last season he started with club  Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia-VTB) playing 5 Eurocup games averaging 6.8ppg, 3.0rpg, FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 40.8%, FT: 77.8%. In the VTB United League, he played 5 games averaging 3.8ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.2apg, 1.2bpg, in Nov.’16 moved to Panathinaikos Athens (Greece-A1) playing 21 games averaging 6.6ppg, 3.3rpg, FGP-1(73.2%), 3PT-3(47.1%), FT: 60.0%. He also played 23 Euroleague games averaging 5.2ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.2apg, 1.2spg, 2FGP: 61.5%, 3FGP: 33.3%, FT: 60.0%. Previously as a professional he played two seasons with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL), a season with  A.G.O Rethymno Aegean (Greece-A1), a season with The Good Home Taranaki Mountain Airs (New Zealand-NBL), Proteas Danoi AEL Limassol (Cyprus-Division A) and Maccabi Ashdod (Israel-Premier League). He started his basketball career with Paris JC (JUCO) and finished at Auburn(NCAA) and as a senior played  31 games averaging 12.2ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.0apg, 1.1spg, 2.3bpg, FGP: 52.6%, 3PT: 32.3%, FT: 64.6%. He spoke to German Hoops before the Euroleague game against Brose Bamberg in Bamberg.

 

Kenny, thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. What do you know about the country Germany and its basketball and do you have any friends playing here?

I don’t think (to my knowledge) that I have and friends playing basketball here. But I know that German teams like to get up and down and run and they play hard.

You have a 2-1 record against German teams Bamberg and Ulm. What memories do you have of the loss to Ulm last season in the Eurocup?

I can’t remember. It was a while ago and I’ve played a lot of games since then. But I know that they played really hard.

Bamberg have been underachieving in the BBL, but been a surprise in the Euroleague reeling off some exciting come from behind wins.  Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (Greece-A1) won the first game this season in Athens 93-83. What kind of game can we await this time, what will be key to winning and  could Dorell Wright make a difference this time around?

I expect a tough game. Dorell Wright is a great player!! He can do a lot of things on offense! He brings a lot to Bamberg!

You started last season motivated with Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia-VTB) and then moved to Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens where you finished the season and resigned this season. Was how last season progressed with the move to Greece a sort of blessing in disguise?

It was tough. I had to learn a new roll and learn all new players! But it was a greatmove for me! Ended up winning the Greek league. I had a bunch of fun last year and I’m happy that I could return back here!

Your playing with one of Europe´s most famous clubs Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens. What kind of experience has it been playing for this organization and what has been the biggest example of why this club is so rich in tradition?

The experience has been great. Everybody knows who you are and they always want to take pictures.  But The fans! They are passionate about basketball! The greet you anywhere and tell you they are a fan of you and they wish you the best for the rest of the season.

You are the defending Greek league and cup title, but haven´t won the Euroleague since 2011. Are the clear defined goals as always to win all three and is this team better than last season?

The goal Is always and will always be to win. But unfortunately you can’t win every game. But each year you want to do better than the past year.

The club as usual will battle Olympiakos for the titles in Greece and Euroleague. With all that you have seen with rival teams in the NCAA, American sports and in Europe where would you put the classic rival of Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens and Olympiakos in the all-time rivals of sports?

It’s a lot of rivals in America. This is one of the best rivals I’ve been a part of. That’s a tough question to answer though! I’m not sure where it is!

The team is as always stacked with so much talent. How has the mere presence of Chris Singleton and James Gist helped your game in the last months? How is your overall relationship on and off the court?

We are like brothers. They are great players and even better friends off the court! They make you elevate your game because they bring energy and they are focused every game!

How raw is a guy like Zach Augustine? He has really stepped up the basketball ladder very quickly. What is most special about his game?

He is a great player! He can offensive rebound with the best of them! He has a sense of where the ball is when a shot goes up and he can get to it almost every time a shot is missed.

Let´s talk about your game. You have mostly played in the Euroleague competition, but hardly in the Greek league? How difficult is that for you? Does this kind of role motivate you extra more to really be a beast in the Euroleague games?

It’s kind of tough. But at the end of the day I have to be ready whenever my number is called. I have to be ready for whatever. At this level you may only play several minutes so you have to make those count. So I just take it one possession at a time and just try to bring energy to my time.

You’re a 209cm high energy player that can score and rebound at ease. What other strengths do you have and to what NBA player would you compare your type of game best to?

It’s tough to compare my game with an NBA player. I think shooting and rebounding are my strengths.

You’re a guy that can fill the stat sheet, but what do you feel is still somewhat a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?

Just being a high energy player. Some stuff doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. But also bringing positive energy to my teammates after missing a few shots. Just trying to keep a positive mind set for the whole game.

Last season you had the privilege to play with Greek legends Antonis Fotsis and Ioannis Bourousis who won countless titles in their careers. What kind of experience was it being teammates with them and what special extra basketball things did you learn from them?

They have a lot of experiences Fotsis is probably the funniest teammate I’ve ever had! He was a great guy and great teammate! Bourousis is a good teammate and he can play basketball with the best of them.

In the summer of 2016 you played NBA Summer League 4 years after playing the first time with Sacramento. In 2016 you played with the Cleveland Cavaliers averaging 7,4ppg and 3,7rpg. What changes did you see in the NBA and the business over the 4 years? Is the NBA still a topic for you now at age 28?

If I make it I make it. If I don’t I don’t! That was a goal for me as a kid but it hasn’t happened. Small ball and players being able to shoot the ball with range. That has changed the NBA!

After your breakout season in Greece in 2013-2014 you then played two seasons with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-TBL). What do you feel made you into a Euroleague player there in those two years?

Just bringing energy and finding what my team needed me to bring that night. As a player you have to be ready to score,rebound, defend, dive for 50/50 balls etc to win games. Those years I was just doing everything and that’s what got me to this level.

In the 2013-2014 season you played with A.G.O Rethymno Aegean (Greece-A1) playing 26 games averaging 12.8ppg, Reb-1(9.3rpg), FGP: 54.4%, 3PT: 33.0%, FT: 71.4%. Do you feel that this was your real breakout season as a professional and did Euroleague teams take notice of you here for possibly the first time?

Ummm I don’t know. I know I wanted to play at the highest level so that year I really put in a lot of work and got better during the year. I set goals and achieved some of them. 

What memories do you have of your rookie season playing in Israel, Cyprus and New Zealand? What was your wake up call to being a rookie that season where you knew that you were very far away from home?

 Israel – I left because they were about to go to war 

Cyprus – None

New Zealand – just really working in my game and just staying focused. 

How vital was Diamon Simpson for you in your first rookie team in Israel? Did he kind of show you the ropes and help you with the European style?

Diamon is one of my good friends! He helps me a lot and we still talk to this day! He is one of the most professional players I know!

Before finishing your illustrious NCAA career at Auburn you had to play a season at Paris JC after coming from  Charlotte, NC / United Faith Christian Academy where you had had a great career. How difficult was it taking a step back in order to take two steps forward at Auburn?

It was tough at first. But once I accepted that I had to go to junior college I knew what I had to do to get ready for Auburn.

Did this experience at Paris JC help you stronger mentally as a player teaching you early that there will always be road blocks in the path to stardom?

It was my first year going away from family. So that was kind of tough. I met my wife there though so that was a plus! Shoutout to her!! But my family was always encouraging me to keep going and that’s why I’m where I am today! 

 

 

You played at Auburn form 2009-2012. When you came in the fall of 2009, what stories do you remember being told from Quantez Robertson who had just graduated and would embark on a professional career in Germany?

Quantez is one of the best defenders I know! I remember playing pick up over the summer before he left to go to overseas and he looked at me and said “you haven’t got your second wind yet”?! Lol but man he can really play basketball!

You were able to improve your scoring and rebound average each season. How did you develop as a player at Auburn?

Just really getting in the gym and shooting and working on everything! If you wanted to be a pro you have to put work people! And that’s what I did during my time at Auburn!

What memories do you have of the 2012 NCAA dunk contest where you were a runner up? What NBA dunkers did you always love to watch?

My teammate Marcus Denmon helped me out on 2 of my dunks!! Shoutout to the Brodie!  But Vince Carter and Blake Griffin And Deandre Jordan and of course LeBron James!

You put up an amazing game against Beth-Cookman scoring 24 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking 10 shots for the very untypical triple double. Was that your greatest game ever?

YES!!!!

What kind of feedback did you get after that game? Did ex Auburn legend Charles Barkley hear about it and give his two cents to your amazing feat?

Everybody was happy for me! But they wanted me to keep going because they knew I could always make something out of basketball!

How did head coach Tony Barbee groom and prepare you best for a professional career at Auburn?

He always told me to keep working and just have fun! Nobody can stop you from having fun if you are doing what you love!

Who won a one on one in practice you or Adrian Forbes?

ME all day!!! Lol

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA right now?

John Wall and Demarcus Cousins

You have played against Real Madrid and 18 year old Luca Doncic twice where he put up 19 and 10 points in Real loses. Is this guy a once in the century talent and alone from talent and experience should be the #1 NBA pick in 2018?

I think it depends on the team that has the #1 pick! But I think he is really good though! 

If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?

LeBron, Jordan, Kobe, Wilt Chamberlin

Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?

G.O.A.T.

There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?

Nobody has seen a player like Russ before! He is different! He plays with more energy that a lot of teams by himself! 

How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?

I’m not sure! But D’Aaron Foxx!!!

Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?

 I think they give Golden State a run in the West! But it won’t be easy!

How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?

Boston for sure! It wasn’t a good deal for the Cavs!

Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder go this season with Westbrook, George and Anthony? Can they make a serious run in the west?

Once they find their rhythm they will be a hard team to play!

What was the last movie that you saw?

Jumanji with my wife and kids!!

Thanks Kenny for the chat.

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