To say the last 12 months has been a whirlwind for Miami HEAT two-way player Gabe Vincent wouldn’t do it justice.
Not in the slightest.
Two separate injuries as a rookie limited him to just 24 games for the Stockton Kings last season. That left Vincent with one option – change his whole approach on the game.
“My rookie year went nowhere near as I expected,” Vincent explained. “Those injuries took away a lot of time for me. Going into the offseason was all about getting healthy, and then putting as much work as I could. It was the first time I really had a summer to put work in a while.”
Vincent played in five games, averaging 12 points for the Nigerian national team in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
@iamgabevincent2 scores a trey and 1
— #NBBF (@nbbfonline) September 8, 2019
“That gave me a lot of experience,” Vincent said of his time at the FIBA World Cup. “A lot of guys are working in the summer, and are playing open run, but it’s different when you’re competing and playing for something. So, playing against different competition, and a different style of basketball helped me work on being gritty, tough, and finding a way, no matter what.”
That prepared him, in many aspects, for a hectic 2019-20 season.
“I was competing for a nation, something bigger than yourself,” Vincent proudly stated. “I don’t think it’s any different here. I’m competing for all of HEAT nation. It’s bigger than just me getting stats or making shots.”
Vincent returned to Stockton to start the season, which saw him post 23.65 points on 47.7-percent shooting in 20 games. Of those contests, he reached 20-plus points in 13 games, which helped him claim a spot on the 2020 Midseason All-G League Western Conference Team.
With momentum and talks of NBA teams interested, Vincent combined to score 40 points in two victories for the Kings at the G League Showcase in December.
“I was just trying to be the best player I could for my team and at that point to showcase my talent, whether others took notice or not – that was out of my control,” Vincent explained of playing through the ‘noise’. “I could be the best player out here, but if that’s not what a team needs, it doesn’t matter. I tried to be as focused as I could, one day at a time, and just tied to get better each day.”
Skyforce head coach Eric Glass explained that they were following him closely throughout the season and noted there was a brief moment when he didn’t think they’d be able to acquire Vincent.
“We had our eye on him for a while,” he noted. “We watched him in the G League Showcase and had already played him a couple of times. And to be honest, there was a time that I didn’t think we were going to be able sign him to a two-way. But we were very excited to do so.”
Just a few weeks later, Vincent scored 19 points against the Skyforce in a victory at the Sanford Pentagon on January 3.
If you ask Vincent, that performance all but assured him that the HEAT would pass on him.
“It’s crazy. I thought I had a good first half, but a bad second half,” Vincent said. “I thought to myself after the game, there goes that opportunity, there goes Miami, that’s done for.”
Days later, on January 8, he got the call he was not expecting, and one he had been dreaming of his entire life.
He was getting signed to a two-way NBA contract.
“I woke up to a phone call from my agent after a game the night before saying, ‘You might not be playing tonight, a couple of teams are calling and will make a decision soon’,” Vincent recalled of the chat. “I was half awake and immediately that’s the best coffee you could ever get. That automatically woke me up.
“He told me it was down to Miami and another team, and I was like, ‘Why are you on the phone? Call Miami back right now and let’s get this done!’. The next morning, early, I was on a flight to Sioux Falls. Right as I hopped off the plane, I signed the papers as soon as I could. It was all kinds of exciting and a dream come true.”
OFFICIAL: The Miami HEAT have signed guard Gabe Vincent to a two-way contract and waived guard Daryl Macon. https://t.co/w2HIylnXUo
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 8, 2020
What exactly does it mean to Vincent to be a part of the Miami HEAT family?
“It means more than words can describe,” he said with a grin on his face. “Going back to when I was a kid and watching the NBA, I admired guys like Dwayne Wade and that ’06 team that went on a run and won the championship for the first time. I’ve been a fan of Miami and guys that have come through the organization. So, to be a part of such an elite organization with such a strong culture, a culture I think I match a lot naturally, means so much to me.”
Vincent feels his approach to life in general has equipped him for his opportunity with the HEAT.
“I was always told when I was young that I was very professional,” he expressed. “I take what I do very seriously, and I love this game. I’m extremely passionate about it. When I lace up my shoes, I have a job to do. I’m here for a reason, I’m not just out here running around, so I take what I do seriously. This is my career. This is my job.”
Glass supported that statement. And then some.
“He’s just a good human being and is high character, and to top it off, he has great values,” Glass praised. “You don’t have to coach him on little stuff. He lives the right way and he’s a good example. Guys like having him around. It’s not easy to absorb a new two-way into a locker room, but he just has an infectious personality and that made it really easy for the guys to accept him.”
Since signing his two-way, Vincent has appeared in 11 games for the Skyforce, averaging 16.4 points on 39.2-percent shooting in a reserve role.
“Every team we play, the opposing coaches always ask me why I am coming off the bench,” Vincent smirked. “I have the same answer every single time, ‘I have no ego. I don’t care who starts. I don’t care how many minutes I’m playing. I just care about that score at the end of the game.’ That’s the only stat that really matters to me.”
That stat is showing for a Skyforce team that’s 12-7 since Vincent’s arrival, and have recently won five-of-six games.
“He’s a winning player. That’s the best way to describe Gabe,” Glass expressed of his player. “Every statistical category that we chart, he’s always at the top, or near the top. He just contributes in so many ways. The first thing you look at his three-point shooting ability and he’s a major threat there. Whether he’s making shots or not, his defense and energy are the same. His communication never wavers, and that’s tough for shooters, so he brings us a winning attitude.”
Adjusting to his new team has been easier than he thought, and the chemistry shows, as the Skyforce sits alone for the sixth and final Western Conference playoff spot, with just eight games remaining in the regular season.
“My time in Sioux Falls has been great,” Vincent said. “I’ve got very close with EG (Eric Glass). Everything has fit so well. I get along with the guys and they’ve all been so accepting. I love this team, and as fun as it is to go to Miami, it’s tough to leave these guys. We have a great relationship.”
What’s that type of player mean to a team?
“He’s everything to us,” Glass voiced. “It means everything to an offense and to a team (when you create space). As a defense, you have to respect him, whether he has the ball or not. You have to pay attention to him, and it opens up everything for our team.”
Vincent has made numerous trips from Sioux Falls to Miami, which is 1,830 miles from airport-to-airport.
“It’s tough; it’s far from easy. All the travel obviously makes it difficult,” he noted. “I learned to leave my phone on loud, because I’ve heard one thing and it can change at the drop of a dime. It’s tough to keep a backpack and keep my bags packed and ready to go. There was one trip I was gone for 20 days, between the two teams. You just never know where you’re needed, where you’ll have to be, or meet. I’d say staying in a rhythm has been one of the hardest things to do.”
OFFICIAL: Gabe Vincent has re-joined the HEAT as part of his two-way contract.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 8, 2020
He’s appeared in six games for the HEAT this season, and his attitude is no different than when he’s with the Skyforce.
“I try to keep that approach, whether I’m in Sioux Falls, being prepared to play however many minutes I need to play,” Vincent stated. “Or, whether I’m the 13th man in Miami. Whenever my number is called, I want to be ready to play. That’s why they pay me. I’m trying to be as professional as possible.”
Of all NBA and G League organizations, the HEAT and Skyforce are just one-of-seven teams that are both in their respected playoffs if they started today.
“Competing for the playoffs for both teams – what more could you ask for as a competitor? It’s so exciting,” Vincent declared. “With the hard work I put in during the offseason, I’ve been on 10 all year. I’m just extremely grateful and blessed to be a part of this organization. As tiring as all the travel can be, it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. It’s what I signed up for, and then some.”
Sioux Falls will look to win its third-straight game on Thursday, as the team travels to face the Lakeland Magic (25-17), who’ve won four-straight, at 6:00 PM CT from Jenkins Arena. Livestream will be available at NBAGLeague.com.
“That’s all you can ask for, as a player, is it to get a situation like I’m in with the culture and success of the HEAT and Skyforce,” Vincent said. “I can’t ask for anything better. I’m just trying to do my part to help the organization be successful and to help impact winning, any way I can.”