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Ex-CK standout joins Nike Pro City squad

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It’s been a long time, but Andrew Gabriel feels like a rookie again.

That’s because in many ways he is. The 22-year-old recent Manhattan College graduate is the new kid on the block at Nike Pro City, one of the youngest players on a veteran Queensbridge squad that features Ron “Metta World Peace” Artest, Cory “The Undertaker” Underwood and Ryan “Special FX” Williams.

“I’m feeling young,” the 6-foot-6 basketball forward from Brooklyn said. “That’s always a good thing.”

It’s also a pretty good thing to play with Artest. That was the case July 5 when Queensbridge fell to United Brooklyn 111-110 at Baruch College. The former St. John’s standout had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but missed a leaner with one second left in the fourth quarter.

“It’s always good to get knowledge from anyone playing the game for a long time, especially Ron, who plays alongside those players he plays with at the Lakers,” Gabriel said. “He was telling me stuff that you really want to hear from someone that’s playing the game. It comes stronger from a player-figure than a coach.”

Gabriel graduated Manhattan in May and now is dealing with the real world. He still has the dream of playing professional basketball, but he also knows there’s life after hoops and he’s set himself up quite well for that.

A political science major at Manhattan with a double minor in philosophy and sociology, Gabriel said he’s interested in criminal law, corporate law and public interest and applied to several local law schools as well as Miami, Florida International and William & Mary.

“That’s what I’m looking to do, but right now I’m just working out and trying to figure out the next step,” Gabriel said.

During the day, Gabriel works for City Councilman Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx), which he figures gives him some on-the-job law training. And then a few nights a week, he gets back on the court with Queensbridge at Nike Pro City.

“I’m feeling good,” Gabriel said. “I want to keep playing as long as I can.”

After earning All-CHSAA second team honors by the New York Post and leading Christ the King to the 2007 CHSAA Class AA intersectional title, Gabriel started 16 games as a freshman at Manhattan, averaging 5.7 points per game. That would be his career-high.

Gabriel started 29 games as a sophomore, averaging 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds, but his playing time and production dwindled in his junior and senior years. In his final year, Gabriel averaged 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in 10 starts and the Jaspers were a dismal 6-25.

“It wasn’t what I hoped for, but at the same time I try to make the best of every situation I’m in,” Gabriel said. “I enjoyed my experience there. It’s just the guys I played with, we just couldn’t click there at certain points in games. But everyone I played with, I always loved playing with them.”

Now Gabriel loves playing with his new teammates and competing against players he’s familiar with, like former St. John’s guard Eugene Lawrence, Eugene “Nunu” Harvey out of Seton Hall and former Arkansas standout Gary Ervin, who scored a game-high 32 points, including the winning free throws with 6.4 seconds left in the fourth to lead Brooklyn United to a win over Gabriel’s Queensbridge.

“I’m trying to be more versatile with my game,” Gabriel said. “Mainly everyone knows me for either being on the block or rebounding. I still try to do the same things, but add a mid-range jump shot, occasional three, drive to the basket, those things that change up a game and keep a defense on its toes.”

Updated 11:30 am, October 12, 2011
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