- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
By DAVID MORRISON
Opelika, Ala. — Kenny Gabriel didn’t even know there was a “Paris” in Texas. He did know that Texas was “one of the biggest states” in the U.S., but that was about the extent of his knowledge on the place he’d be spending the next year of his life after he graduated from United Faith Christian Academy in Charlotte, N.C., in 2008.
He also knew that succeeding in Paris after hitting an academic roadblock on his way to Auburn was his only chance at playing Division-I basketball. And he’d have to go about 1,000 miles from home to get it.
“I just felt like I was on an island by myself before I really got comfortable with my teammates,” Gabriel said. “Being that far away from home, you get homesick really easy. It was just really tough on me.”
The 6-foot-8 forward shined at Paris Junior College in the 2008-2009 season for Dragons head coach Ross Hodge, qualified at Auburn and was the Tigers’ second-leading scorer and rebounder with 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a game last year.
Gabriel, like many other athletes in major college sports, hit a snag in his journey from high school star to Division-I player. He also knew exactly what he was working for the whole time he navigated the junior-college transitional period necessary for a shot at the big time.
“It’s just staying on track, not getting sidetracked because you had to take a detour,” Gabriel said. “Just staying on track and keeping my goal in my mind every day. Knowing what I’m shooting for when it’s all said and done.”
After getting over the initial shock of being there, Gabriel said, the relationships he formed were extremely valuable.
“I remember one time I gave the custodian’s son one of the shooting sleeves I wear,” Gabriel said. “He told me it made his day and he wanted me to sign it for him and everything. It’s just the impact I had on some people down there.”