Monday, June 18, 2012

Gabriel Transfers to BC

After spending her freshman year thousands of miles away at Depaul University in Chicago, Karima Gabriel (Manchester, NH) decided it was time to come home. The 6-foot-2 forward is officially transferring from Depaul to Boston College, where she will have three years of eligibility following a red-shirt year next season.

Gabriel attended Trinity High School in Manchester (where her younger brother Mabor will be a senior next year) before transferring to the Peddie School, a prep school in New Jersey.

This past winter at Depaul she played just 75 total in minutes in 18 games coming off the bench. So in addition to being closer to home Gabriel also hopes to get more of an opportunity to play at BC.

Gabriel declined to comment on her transfer as she has been busy moving back home and preparing for summer school at BC. Her AAU Coach Kara Leary was available to shed some light on the story.

“Karima contacted me a month or so ago letting me know that she was looking to transfer and get back to a school closer to home” said Leary, who coached Gabriel on the AAU circuit with the NE Crusaders. “Although she was doing fantastic academically, she missed her family and felt that there were schools that were a better fit back home. Plus, on the basketball side, although DePaul is a fantastic program (top 25 last year), it wasn’t a fit for her.”

Often times a school’s proximity to an athlete’s hometown is a big factor in their decision of which college to attend.

“I could relate on the homesickness side” said Coach Leary, who was a starter and captain at Notre Dame after playing her high school ball at Nashua. “As a NH kid who went to school in the Midwest, I also missed being able to get back home more often – especially as a freshman. And when playing basketball, that opportunity is much shorter with the time demands put on college athletes. At that point, I started to reach out to my college contacts throughout the East Coast. I wanted to provide her options that were a fit – distance-wise, academic wise and style of play wise.”

The BC Eagles play in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) which is arguably the most competitive conference in the country for basketball. They went just 7-23 in 2011-2012, and in April they hired Erik Johnson as the program’s new head coach.

“BC provides the same great education and high level basketball opportunity, but it is closer to home” said Leary. Now her family (Karima is one of 5 kids) can come and see her play, plus he can get home on a day off to do laundry or get a home cooked meal. From the basketball standpoint Coach Johnson has a great track record working with post players. He was responsible for getting BC post phenoms Stefanie Murphy (former Londonderry High player now playing professionally in France) and Carolyn Swords (who is playing in the WNBA) to BC and for their continued development in college. Erik was on staff at BC during their freshman year. Karima is excited working with the new BC staff.”

There is a definite trend of former Crusader AAU players going on to play in college at BC, so this transfer should come as no surprise. Gabriel will be able to play alongside former Crusader teammates Tiffany Ruffin (former Winnacunnet High standout) and Alexa Coulombe (from Maine).

“I think it is great having our 10th player from the Crusaders program matriculating to Boston College” said Coach Leary. BC offers New England kids who want to stay in the region a chance to get a great education, play in a high level conference, and be close to home. For those kids that have the skill-set to play at that level, there are a lot of positives. And, I know that this current staff is committed to getting kids from New England that are ACC level kids to go to Boston College. Our Crusader kids are taught how to play the game (skills) and how to think the game (basketball IQ). We also emphasize the little things like working hard, carrying yourself well on and off the court, and being a good teammate. These are things that the BC staffs over the years have appreciated in our kids."

Having the top local players stay close to home for their college ball also creates more interest in basketball on the grassroots level and allows the younger high school kids coming up to have role models.

“Our younger Crusader kids get a chance to see players they look up to play locally at a school that competes in one of the top conferences in the country” Leary continued. “Plus, it’s cool seeing the local kid do well against college powers. Who could forget NH’s Kindyll Dorsey (former Manchester memorial standout) dropping six threes against the #1 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes in leading BC to an upset over the heavily favored Buckeyes in the NCAA tournament? You literally could not block that kid’s jumper."

Gabriel has good strength and tremendous athleticism and quickness for a player her size. She runs the floor well, crashes the boards and is a dominant inside scorer. There is no doubt that she is a Division I caliber player. Still, even more impressive is how Gabriel has worked hard to become a better student.

“This is truly a success story of a kid learning the value of getting after it every day in the classroom and learning to own her academic experience” Leary continued. “Karima has transformed from a student at Trinity where she struggled and was in danger of not being eligible to play basketball to the Peddie School where she learned the value of getting after it in the classroom and learned some great study skills as she had access to academic programs 24/7. Then this year as a frosh at DePaul, where in the classroom she is sporting a 3.57 GPA this spring. This is what is all about - kids figuring it out and setting themselves up for a career with their work in the classroom”

Since she will be red-shirting next season Gabriel will have time freed up to continue working hard in the classroom. She’ll also be able to spend more time with her family, and there is no shortage of Gabriel kids in southern NH. She has two younger brothers playing high school basketball, as Mabor will be a senior at Trinity while Wenyen Gabriel will be a sophomore at Memorial. Mabor is expected to be a Player of the Year candidate in Division I. Her other brother Komot, and cousin Richard Madol both played at Trinity together and now attend the University of New Hampshire. Her other cousin, David Madol, played at Trinity (then Memorial) and is now attending and playing basketball at Southern New Hampshire University.

Karima’s success on the court and in the classroom is sure to inspire her younger siblings and cousins, as well as other local girls basketball players coming up. Best of luck to her at BC, and fans are encouraged to go and see her play there in 2013 (along with Ruffin).

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