2006-07-14 / Sports

Gabriel, Teel Head In Different Directions

By Elio Velez

Vernon Teel (right)- Photo By Patrick McCarthy-Permission of NewsdayVernon Teel (right)- Photo By Patrick McCarthy-Permission of Newsday With the breakneck pace of games and travel for the 150 or so high school basketball athletes invited to the Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck, New Jersey last week, it sometimes seems it could be hard for them to catch their breath.

But the Reebok Camp is one of the most prestigious camps with players more than happy to be invited as a means to showcase their talent. It's the perfect opportunity to showcase your skills to college coaches like Jim Boeheim, Norm Roberts and countless others.

Darius Gabriel returned here for the second straight year. He's one of those athletes that Reebok believes makes a big time impact at their high schools and will be as good at the next level.

The Winchendon School point guard has found a comfort zone that he did not have when he was playing at Bishop Loughlin two years ago. The 17 year old says he's more mature on the floor.

"They (scouts) told me I improved all around. I'm more a leader. I'm more vocal. I've shown that I can be flashy but also be a smarter player with the ball."

He played seven games in four days along with players who are attempting the same mission as the Rockaway resident. To gain what is the Holy Grail; which is a Division One college basketball scholarship.

The results may have not been to his liking. He struggled in the first few games before settling down after he had a chat with O.J. Mayo, the most talked about top senior point guard in the nation.

"He helped me with some things. The first day is always the roughest. He told me to keep my composure and I do that, things will start flowing," Gabriel said.

After transferring for personal reasons from Bishop Loughlin at the end of the 2005 season, Gabriel was talented enough to be invited to the Reebok Camp that summer.

The 6 foot 1 point guard is an electric talent whose athletic ability sets him apart from others at his position. High schools recognized that ability and the Winchendon School, a college preparatory school located 65 miles away from Boston, invited him to join their program.

With Gabriel looking to make a fresh start, he would have to start over after reclassifying as a sophomore at Winchendon, a small town of 7,500. He would also have to motivate himself inside the classroom, which the school stressed to him as the main priority.

An academic underachiever at Bishop Loughlin, where he had a C average, Gabriel raised his GPA to a B+ even with a big class workload. As a junior next season, Gabriel knows what he must do to start the college application process.

On the hardwood, coach Mike Byrnes, a former graduate and Division I player, did not give Gabriel the starting job right away. Playing in the New England Prep League against elite schools like St. Thomas More and Notre Dame Prep doesn't guarantee anyone a starting role, even if Gabriel came with a lot of promise.

"To play, the coach told me to make smarter decisions and not be as flashy. I had to do it. It only took five minutes for me to learn," Gabriel said. "Everyone had to work their way to the lineup. I knew I had to do the same thing. I did it the fifth game of the season and I got thrown into the fire."

He enjoyed a fine season starting the last 27 games of the campaign, averaging 21 points and 8 assists a game as Winchendon made the playoffs. With his junior year approaching and receiving early interest from ACC schools such as Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, Gabriel is grateful for the chance to get on the floor.

"I went to Reebok because they have the best competition for me. Whatever my team needs to do to win, Ill do it. If I had to dive on the floor, take a charge, Ill do it."

With continued success, Gabriel can keep flashing the 100-watt smile that seems to be permanently planted on his face.

Vernon Teel

During July, the NCAA allows college program to chance to see and recruit basketball players who are competing in camps and tournaments.

So why is Vernon Teel, the former PSAL All- Star and all time leading scorer at Flushing High School, a prep basketball star at Laurinberg Institute, doing at the first annual Real Scout Invitational Camp?

Why wasn't he invited to the Reebok ABCD Camp, where he got notiched last year?

"I could have went to ABCD Camp but they weren't inviting fifth year seniors, so I came here," teel said.

And so continues to saga of where Teel, a 6 foot 2 guard who uses his toughness and his smarts to become the dynamite scorer that he is.

At Flushing, he averaged 32 points a game in his senior season and at Laurinberg, continues to impress scouts with a team that finished with a 26-1 record. He is adept at scoring inside the basket, improving his outside shot and does not shy away from contact.

"I grew up in a rough neighborhood so I had to play tough. That's what you had to do when you're growing up in Far Rockaway," Teel said.

But after receiving offers from Seton Hall and West Virginia after the Camp, Teel had already agreed to go to Laurinberg, improve his game and expected to hear from more colleges.

But the high school graduate, who is qualified to attend college this season, has not received the same interest as last year. "It's kind of surprising. I'm kind of shocked. Coming out of ABCD, I had a lot of schools. I didn't take one because I thought would have the time to decide one at Laurinberg."

So Teel went to Nate Blue, the creator of the Real Scout Invitational camp and founder of the AAU program of the same name. Knowing Blue since his freshman year of high school, Teel knew that the two-day program- which provides a forum for talented players who may get shutout of the higher profile Reebok, Adidas or Nike Invitational Camps.

""A lot of people don't really know him that well but when they see him, he's one of those players who work hard. He's a winning player. They'll see that," Blue said.

Teel will continue to play with the New York Panthers in the meantime. If the interest from schools such as LIU, Manhattan, Hofstra doesn't materialize, he may be forced to enroll again at a prep school. He ruled out any chance of enrolling at a junior college in the fall.

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