Syracuse guard Michael Gbinije did not put up gaudy numbers in the team’s first game of the season, scoring six points and dishing out five assists against zero turnovers in a win over Cornell, but if the Orange are going to challenge for a national title, let alone an Atlantic Coast Conference title, the 6-foot-7 sophomore is going to need to play a major role.
Of course, the reserve guard brings something unique to the Orange that no one else on his team can boast: he’s already played a season at the top of the ACC. That’s because coming out of high school, Gbinije signed with Duke, where he played sparingly as a freshman but showed enough flashes for many to think he would ultimately emerge as a talented contributor down the road.
Alas, it was not meant to be and he chose to leave Tobacco Road, opting to transfer away from the coach with the most wins in NCAA history and instead playing for the guy with the second-most wins.
Usually, this sort of transfer would not be kosher since both Duke and Syracuse play in the same conference. However, Gbinije – or Silent G, as he’s been nicknamed – got around this by transferring when Syracuse was still in the Big East. That’s where Gbinije becomes something of a unique weapon in that he’s already got experience playing at Duke, and against teams like North Carolina, Virginia and the other usual stalwarts in the conference.
He brings an inside view of the ACC to upstate New York, and that should prove to be an edge when ACC play opens up. The rest of the Orange are used to playing in the rough-and-tumble Big East, but Gbinije is already well versed in the finesse style of the ACC.
Gbinije also gives Jim Boeheim a lot of flexibility, since he’s able to play any wing position, including serving as the team’s backup point guard. At 6-foot-7, he also gives the Orange some tremendous size at the top of the patented 2-3 zone, and if there comes a time when Boeheim decides to pair Gbinije with 6-foot-7 freshman guard B.J. Johnson either this year or moving into next season, that could become an absolute nightmare for opposing teams.
With a freshman point guard in Tyler Ennis, Boeheim needs a more seasoned guy like Gbinije to spell the talented freshman playmaker when he is struggling as he did against Cornell. While he did not play much as a freshman at Duke and he sat out last year, he still got to practice against Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche every day last year, making him one of the two most experienced guards on the roster alongside Trevor Cooney.
A solid athlete with the ability to knock down the outside shot, he’ll be a valuable weapon this season for Syracuse.