Gabriel Continuing To Mature As A Point Guard

Reporter Brian Towey was on hand to watch Winchendon point guard Darius Gabriel at Baruch College ...

In his baldly honest assessments of his players, Winchendon coach Mike Byrnes doesn't nibble around the corners. In describing talented lead guard Darius Gabriel, he is frank about his abilities, and what is in need of work.

"Darius came to us last year as a very athletic, very raw, very tough player that needed a lot of molding," said Byrnes. "He had never taken ownership of or run a team."

Byrnes comments are at the heart of the Gabriel's development as a basketball player since arriving from Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn in the fall of 2005 and reclassifying as a member of the class of 2008. The crux of which was helping a scoring guard transform into a bonafide point.

"What I have been working on since I came here is becoming a point guard," said Gabriel. "Passing first. Running a team. At Loughlin I was more of a scorer, shoot first and pass second."

Gabriel's maturation as a player and development as a point guard are an ongoing process. He's a player who has that burst to sail past defenders, and he changes speeds well. He has a strong feel for the game and a lot of natural ability.

What Byrnes has tried to impress upon him are the nuances of the position and how crucial it is for him to assume a leadership role: in a nutshell, what it will take for him to handle the point at a high level in college.

One of the things that Byrnes has stressed is that he doesn't need to play at 100 miles an hour all of the time to be effective.> "He has a gear that other guys don't have," said Byrnes. "Lately, he's turned the ball over a lot, but it's only because he's trying to do too much. He's got to go down a gear. He's got to go down to fourth gear, so his teammates can catch up with him."

If Byrnes is a tough critic, it is only because he sees potential, and is trying to prepare his players for the next level.

"My job is to prepare these guys for the college level," said Byrnes. "I hold them accountable. Back home they always played through things."

As he continues to progress, Gabriel, a native of Far Rockaway, Queens, finds himself on the high major radar.

"I have Florida, Tennesse, Pitt," said Gabriel. "I have Kansas, Iowa, Iowa State, and Virginia Tech. My top five is Kansas, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Iowa, and Iowa State. I have offers from Tennessee, Xavier, and I think Kansas. It's iffy with Kansas, because my mother, who lives in Georgia, doesn't want me to go to school so far away from home."

Gabriel feels that one program in particular suits his game.

"I think that out of all of them, Tennessee is the best fit," said Gabriel. "They play defense 94 feet, like Byrnes, and play a little bit of zone. I'm looking for a team that gets up and down, (is) defensive, tough."

As Gabriel continues to embrace the role of a true point, the high major interest should continue to flow in. Byrnes, ever cautious, hopes the maturation continues.

"Jamie Dixon came in to see him, and he likes him, but he's a little bit down the list," said Byrnes.

"Tennessee likes him, but he's a little bit down the list. Coaches tell me has the athleticism and the talent and the toughness to play at a high level, but can he be cerebral enough, can he take ownership of a team and be a leader on the floor? Big East, SEC schools call- Duquesne really likes him, Fordham likes him- and they ask "How's he doing taking care of the ball, how's he doing running the team?' and I tell them it's coming. He's a work in progress."

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