Countdown to 2015–16: Gabe Vincent is ready to usher in a new era at UC Santa Barbara

Photo courtesy of Michael B. Thomas, Getty Images

Gabe Vincent is a fan of all things Cleveland.

Well, at least the sports teams. LeBron and the Cavs? Can’t get enough. How ‘bout them Browns? Well…

“I was already a huge fan of LeBron, but people were getting on me that I didn’t have a favorite football team,” says Taylor. “At that point, the Browns were the worst team in the NFL, so I just went with them.”

This picking of teams provides a hint into Vincent’s mentality. Despite starring at St. Mary’s High in Stockton, Calif., he felt that he was overlooked on the recruiting trail. Most high-major teams had him fifth or sixth on their wish lists, thinking that at 6–3, he was a bit undersized for a two-guard. But Vincent was sure of his own worth, and he realized he would simply have to wait to showcase it.

Kind of like the Browns. “Sooner or later, they’ll be good,” says Vincent.

Vincent wasted little time in announcing himself on the college basketball scene. He became UC Santa Barbara’s first true freshman starter in six years, and finished ‘14–15 with 57 threes, the second-highest tally by a frosh in program history. After posting 10.1 points, 2.1 boards, and 2.1 assists, he was named Big West Conference Freshman of the Year.

There was a steely mentality in this kid that quickly won over fans. Vincent’s had a moxie about him for years, a type that allowed him to drop 47 points in a high school game — while fighting a nasty case of the flu.

As a sophomore, Vincent will be expected to help usher UCSB into the post-Alan Williams era. Vincent can already see the shift in approach: whereas dumping the rock into Williams — that double-double, low-post machine — was a perennially safe option, now, attention shifts to the Gauchos’ perimeter players.

“Us wings, we’re pretty dynamic,” says Vincent, referring to the likes of 6–4 Michael Bryson and 6–5 Michael Green, both of whom are NorCal natives like Vincent. “We like to get out and run, and I think our wings will be our strongest option this season, as far as scoring goes.”

Vincent hasn’t shied away from the added responsibility. Hard work has been engrained in him, ever since he decided to pursue hoops in the sixth grade. Take the summer before he entered high school. Vincent wasn’t feeling confident with his jumper, so he went into the gym every day at 6 a.m. After a few months worth of toil, it was seamless. Now, it’s his strongest asset.

Not that Vincent is settling. “This summer, I’ve worked on getting to the rim more,” he says. “I’ve tried to become a better ballhandler, and I’ve tried to extend my court vision.”

Insatiable work ethic. Just like that LeBron.