Michael Gbinije: 'Syracuse Was A Good Fit For Me'

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 19: Michael Gbinije #13 of the Duke Blue Devils defends a drive by C.J. Harris #11 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during play at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 19, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 91-73. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Mike Hopkins is the Syracuse Orange assistant coach that gets most of the attention, especially when it comes to recruiting.

However, when it comes to Duke Blue Devils transfer Michael Gbinije, you can score this one for Adrian Autry (not to mention Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney).

All of those recent additions to the Syracuse staff and lineup played a crucial role in how we landed this guard/forward.

"It felt like Syracuse was a good fit for me,’’ Gbinije said in a telephone conversation on Saturday morning. "I knew most of the players there. I played with Rakeem and Michael at the Jordan Classic. I’ve met Trevor Cooney. I just felt comfortable there.’’


And several years ago, current Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry had coached Gbinije while with the Triple Threat and Team Takeover AAU teams.

Gbinije visited SU on Friday and Saturday and met with the coaches and current players, solidifying his decision.

I don't know about you but I had a couple questions about the newbie when I heard the news.

No. 1, Coach K and Boeheim are good friends and will work together on the Olympic team...is this going to sour that relationship?

Apparently not.

"They talked to each other about me,’’ Gbinije said. "Coach K’s a really good person. He gave a good word for me.’’

No. 2, while Syracuse technically isn't a member of the ACC, we will be by the time Gbinije is eligible. How'd we slip that one past the goalie?

While no one has officially noted this as far as I can tell, Gbinije is well aware of the situation:

"Yeah, that’s a little ironic,’’ Gbinije said.

(It's not actually irony, but we'll let that slide)

No. 3, was Syracuse a part of his initial recruiting as a freshman?

Yep, we offered and showed him a lot of attention but he committed to Duke in his junior year of high school. And so we moved on...

No. 4, does The Wes Johnson Effect come into play here?

I don't think it does since we already had such a leg-up with the prior relationships that Gbinije had but I think it's worth noting that Syracuse can offer an impending transfer a solid case study for why they should don the orange. Wes Johnson played one season for SU and left a lottery pick. You can quibble over the details but there it is. You can have your one-and-done, we'll raise you the one-transfer-and-done.

No. 5, where will Gbinije fit in when he plays in 2013-2014?

So hard to say for sure since we know how things can change in a season around here. Obviously Triche will be gone, opening up room in the guard spot. And James Southerland will be gone, making room in the forward area. In theory, he's joining a squad that will be led by Michael Carter-Williams at the point and C.J. Fair on the wing. He can fit in nicely between the two, though he'll be fighting Trevor Cooney and Jerami Grant for playing time. Way too early to delve into all of that.

No. 6, I'm assuming he's transferring in part because he wants to play more. So how's he gonna deal with sitting for a year?

He's gonna use the time to do what he should...get better.

"I feel that it is a season needed so I can make some improvements to my game, and get adjusted to Syracuse basketball. I can get my body ready to play, and work on some of my weaknesses. I think this will work out good for me."

No. 7, why is he transferring anyway?

He's being mum on the specifics but his high school coach is not.

"It has nothing to do with Michael not liking the school or not liking the guys (on the team) or not liking Coach K," McAloon said. "He just wants to play.

"He wants to be on the floor. He wants to be a substantial player. I don't know if it was going to happen there or it wasn't going to happen. I think he was just looking for a little bit of a fresh start."

No. 8, what kind of references are we going to be able to make about his name?

Well, right away, we can use that silent G (Ben-Uh-Jay) for a lot of good. Give it up for Jim Gboeheim. Hunger Games enthusiasts will have some fun with the Mockingjay/Ben-Uh-Jay similarities. Any other ideas?

No. 9, this is going to affect that first ACC game against Duke, isn't it?

Absolutely. Obviously, it was already going to be a big game. But now there's some personal motivation on both sides. Gbinije to prove something to his former school and for his former teammates to prove they don't need him. It's just the kind of thing Syracuse needs to really start breaking in those ACC rivalries.

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