When the Syracuse Orange basketball team suits up Saturday, it will be the final time Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije and Christian White take the Carrier Dome floor. That is, unless Syracuse ends up hosting an NIT game, but let's pretend that scenario doesn't exist for the purposes of this column.
First, congratulations to Christian White on his time with the hoops team. White, a local player out of Rochester, has plans to play another year as a graduate transfer. He spent his first two undergraduate years at Monmouth. I wonder if he had any impact on the development of the bench celebrations when he was there.
As far as the rotation players go, we will start with the infinitely less-divisive Gbinije. A former Duke transfer, Gbinije embodied the "wait-your-turn" mantra of countless Syracuse players before him. He sat out a year after transferring and then deferred to C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas before becoming "The Man" for this year's Orange squad.
it's hard to say what Gbinije's "signature" moment is at Syracuse, but the one that will always spring to mind for me is the game-winner against Virginia Tech last year. In addition, Silent G's tip-slam against Long Beach State is endlessly rewatchable on YouTube.
The most commendable aspect of Gbinije's career is how he basically learned to play point guard on the fly. He was always a wing player, but Jim Boeheim asked Gbinije to improve his ball-handling so he could handle point guard duties after the team lost Tyler Ennis while Kaleb Joseph found himself a permanent home in the Boeheim Doghouse.
Gbinije also added an effective three-point shot during his career, and he's shooting 39.3 percent from deep on the season. The shot he hit from Manley Field House to tie the game against Virginia Tech this year is also one of Gbinije's more memorable plays.
Now, Gbinije is arguably Syracuse's most indispensable player. He can play multiple positions and play both the top and the bottom of the zone. And he has provided us with entertaining insights like how he drinks pickle juice to avoid cramping.
And as Mike Waters of Syracuse.com points out, Gbinije is on his way to becoming just the third transfer to score 1,000 points (the other two being Leo Rautins and Ryan Blackwell.) Gbinije currently sits at 972 points.
So here's to you, Mike. Congratulations on your career and thanks for all you've done for Syracuse.
Now we move on to Cooney, who has been the subject of countless arguments on local radio and among Syracuse fans in general. Love him or hate him (and there doesn't seem to be an in-between), you would be hard pressed to say Cooney had a disappointing career at Syracuse.
For starters, as Steve Infanti of Channel 9 in Syracuse notes, Cooney is on the verge of joining elite company among Syracuse hoops players.
Only 8 players in SU history have at least 1300 career pts., 200 assists, & 200 steals. Trevor Cooney is 8 steals from joining the club— Steve Infanti (@SteveInfantiNC9) February 23, 2016
Some of the other players on that list are Gerry McNamara, Lawrence Moten, Pearl Washington and Sherman Douglas.
Does Cooney take questionable shots at times? Definitely. But he's someone defenses have to worry about, and he has the capability to get hot at a moment's notice. Look no further than Cooney's 33-point eruption against Notre Dame a couple years back.
That thumbnail is the ultimate #CooneyFace, by the way. But that game is easily Cooney's signature moment. Not only was he in heat check mode, but Cooney single-handedly kept the No. 1-ranked Orange afloat against Notre Dame after an emotionally draining Duke game two days prior.
Cooney may have frustrated some fans, but he has given everything he has to Syracuse University. He has played almost 38 minutes a game the past two seasons, and by all accounts he is one of the hardest workers Syracuse basketball has ever had.
Maybe coming in with a reputation as a lights-out shooter with the aura of G-Mac still fresh in everyone's mind put unreasonable expectations on Cooney, much like following Ennis did for Joseph.
Either way, Cooney put up some impressive numbers and will always be someone that sparks conversation between fans. If that doesn't indicate a successful career, I don't know what does.