Wenyen Gabriel flies early Tuesday morning from Cleveland to Detroit, and Detroit to Charlotte. Get the man a direct flight.
Gabriel proceeds directly from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to the practice court at Spectrum Center. The Charlotte Hornets are the 18th team for which he auditioned. Give the man a break.
Gabriel, who played two seasons for Kentucky, doesn’t want one.
“You work your whole life for this moment,” he says.
A native of Sudan, Gabriel is 6-9 and 21 years old. Last season, he turned in an interesting double. He led Kentucky in blocks and finished second in three-pointers.
The players that work out for the Hornets Tuesday could not be happier or more energetic or courteous if they practiced.
“How are you doing, sir?” asks James Demery, a 6-6 wing from St. Joseph’s.
Demery, 21, averaged 16.9 points and 5.5 rebounds last season. He slips past me on his way to be interviewed. When he finishes, I thank him.
“Thank you, sir,” he says.
As you were.
“This is a dream come true,” says Sam Hunt, 23.
Hunt is talking about the draft, and being on the practice court of the team for which he grew up cheering. A 6-2 guard, Hunt attended Greensboro Dudley High. In college, he played for Jacksonville, for N.C. A&T and for N.C. State. He averaged 5.5 points last season. As a sophomore for the Aggies, he averaged 15.4.
Hunt wears Wolfpack red. Jerome Robinson wears Raleigh Broughton high purple. He looks so happy.
Robinson, 21, ought to be. The man can play. To prove it, he has auditioned for the San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Hornets and, next up, the Washington Wizards.
You might know Robinson. He played the last three seasons for Boston College. He wasn’t a highly rated recruit and Boston College wasn’t a highly rated program. But Robinson improved, and incrementally, so did the Eagles.
A 6-6 guard, Robinson last season averaged 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists, shot 48.5 percent from the field and 40.9% from 3-point range. He can move, create a shot, and go where he needs to. He is big-time, and he is a first-round pick.
Also auditioning Tuesday is A.J. Davis of Central Florida, a 6-9 wing that last seasoned averaged 12.2 points and 7.6 rebounds.
About the draft, Davis says: “It’s just exciting that all the work that we’ve been putting in is finally going to add up to this day.”
Imagine if you tried out for your job the way Davis tries out for his. The general manager is there, the assistant general manager is there and the head coach is there.
What do you think you offer?
Prove it against your peers in front of everybody. The pressure is tremendous. But if the NBA is what you want to do, where else would you be?
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” Robinson says.