Darius Gabriel Hits the Big Baskets At Winchendon Prep
By Elio Velez
When it comes to playing high school basketball, Gabriel can sometimes forget to contain his boisterous energy when he's the on the court for Winchendon Prep, a small co-ed school located in a sleepy Massachusetts town 65 miles away from Boston. As the starting point guard for the varsity basketball team, Gabriel has transformed from once a flashy but inconsistent player two years ago at Bishop Loughlin High School to a steady and improving performer who has attracted attention from numerous NCAA Division I programs.
It hasn't always been a smooth adjustment for Gabriel, who can honestly admit that his immaturity and relationship with his former coaches at Bishop Loughlin was some of the factors that made him leave after the 2004-05 school year ended. His initial move was to attend to Boys to Men High in Chicago but a meeting at the ABCD Camp during the summer of 2005 with Winchendon coach Mike Byrnes changed Gabriel's mind.
It turned out to be the right decision. Byrnes' program espouses accountability and discipline from his players and his approach has turned out many top NCAA bound players. Now Gabriel is most comfortable being hundreds of miles away from his Far Rockaway home at the school where his guard play has attracted interest from the University of Tennessee, Iowa, Virginia Tech and a few more high Division I programs.
His grades, which were borderline passing at Loughlin has improved greatly to rise to an almost B+ student.
"Everything turned out great I think. At first it was real hard but in the end it really helped education wise and with school," Gabriel said.
"(Byrnes) is a tough guy so you got to play ball all the time." A starting junior point guard, Gabriel is a pass first player sacrificing most of his athletic offensive game for a team oriented approach. He can get to the basket, using his light frame to evade defenders but scoring is not his main role. "My role is to just be a point guard, pass and just play hard. That's it, says Gabriel.
"At Loughlin, I was more of a scorer and more of a shoot first type of a guy but since I'm only 6 foot 1, Coach told me I had to become a point guard."
At times he can have steady performances dishing more assists and creating opportunities for his fellow New Yorkers such as Villanova bound shooting guard Malcolm Grant and former Abraham Lincoln forward Kevin Menner.
Also at times, the stats can indicate that Gabriel showed be a mixed bag of good and bad in his performances on the floor. In one example, the Far Rockaway resident, returned to the metropolitan area in January with his Winchendon Prep team defeating Laurinburg Prep 81-70 in the Big Apple High School Challenge. During the first half and into the third quarter, Gabriel was wildly inconsistent as his team trailed.
Once reinserted into the fourth quarter, Gabriel made a concerted effort to not commit more turnovers. He directed the offense and got the ball to the explosive Grant and his teammates as Winchendon pulled away for the win. He finished with 8 points and five assists, which all occurred in the fourth quarter. It displayed the team first ability that has caused many college letters to be sent Gabriel's way.
Until he makes a decision for college, which Gabriel says he will consult with his parents first before choosing, the goal is to capture the local NEPSAC high school title. And enjoying the opportunity for playing with a high profile program which he strong believes is preparing for the important step of getting to the next level
"This (Prep) fits me. It's perfect."