Former Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel, now a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, and Wildcats coach John Calipari have a complicated relationship. Gabriel aired out some dirty laundry on Coach Cal’s Instagram this afternoon.
Calipari wished former UK center Bam Adebayo, a breakout star for the Miami Heat this season, a happy birthday on the social media platform. The big man turns 23. Gabriel, who joined UK in the same class as Adebayo, commented “damn where was my bday wish in March?” with a laughing emoji.
On its surface, that comes off as a joke, but Gabriel’s poor experience at Kentucky is relatively well known. Last fall, he was accused of sabotaging Kentucky’s recruitment of forward Jaden McDaniels. While other UK commits and players tried hard to bring him aboard, Gabriel sent him a long message, calling out Calipari for what he considered false promises. Justin Rowland of Rivals posted the messages on Twitter in October. McDaniels would go on to play at Washington, before declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.
“My first conversation with Cal he said I was a 6’10 shooting guard…” Gabriel sent the five-star forward. “Don’t fall in love with his words let me tell you the real! You look like you could be the next KD fr… but if you not ready to do it like right NOW… then u gon end up being just a skinny big man there.”
After the McDaniels situation becoming public, Gabriel has become persona non grata for many members of Big Blue Nation. In the comments of Cal’s post about Adebayo, he responded to plenty of his critics.
“Was just tryna warn a brother, to be forewarned is to be forearmed,” Gabriel responded to one Kentucky fan, who said he “turned on” his alma mater.
When another fan asked why he would get a birthday message from Calipari given the circumstances, Gabriel responded “because every time I put on that Kentucky jersey I gave it everything I had.”
Elsewhere in the conversation, Gabriel mentioned the fact that he was a top 15 recruit before going to UK, and left as an undrafted player. He does admit that Kentucky is “perfect” for some players, and that he doesn’t regret going there, even though he “didn’t like playing for (Calipari) in college.” He also said he reached out to Calipari to apologize months before the message to McDaniels was made public, but has still been effectively “cut off” of the program by his former coach.
Most of John Calipari’s former players, especially the ones who make the NBA like Wenyen Gabriel did, seem to have a ton of respect for him. As Gabriel says, there is no coach who is for everyone, and that definitely goes for Calipari too. It is still pretty jarring to see him discuss his issues so frankly on social media.