Gbinije finds comfort, new start at Syracuse after tumultuous stretch at Duke

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 31, 2014 at 4:18 am Contact Trevor: [email protected] | @TrevorHass Michael Gbinije spoke with his high school coach Sean McAloon after Duke was bounced from the NCAA Tournament in 2012.“How you doin’?” McAloon asked Gbinije. “I’m thinking about leaving,” Gbinije responded.Leaving Duke — one of the most storied programs in college basketball.Buried on the bench behind Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton, Gbinije played just six minutes per game, and didn’t see the court in nearly half of the Blue Devils’ games. After that tumultuous stretch, Gbinije did transfer to Syracuse following his freshman season. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textNow, after redshirting last season, Gbinije is the Orange’s seventh man and is averaging 12.7 minutes per game. He has struggled adjusting to playing point guard and finding his shot, but has earned rotational minutes. He’ll get a chance to face his old team Saturday when No. 2 Syracuse (20-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) takes on No. 17 Duke (17-4, 6-2) at 6:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.“I got blessed to have a second chance and come to a school like Syracuse,” Gbinije said. “I just wanted to take full advantage of it.”Initially, Gbinije admitted he rushed his decision to go to Duke. Pressure from the outside was overflowing. His dad, Frank, loved coach Mike Krzyzewski’s military background. Both of his parents loved the academics at Duke. His friends were wowed by the idea of Gbinije playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium.Krzyzewski had just guided Team USA to a world championship. He had already molded the games of Grant Hill, Luol Deng and Shane Battier, among many others. Those around Gbinije wanted him to seize the opportunity, thinking he could follow in the footsteps of these former Duke wings.“Everyone and their mother was like ‘You got to do this,’” McAloon said. “It was just pressure, on pressure, on pressure.”So he did. Without taking an official visit beforehand. Without any idea how little he’d end up playing.But once he was there, everything changed. The prospect of playing key minutes for a championship contender faded. Gbinije rode the bench.When Duke came back from a trip to China, Gbinije told McAloon how far behind he was with his development.Frank Gbinije said Michael didn’t fit the mold of a Duke player. Getting him to open up is like “getting through a brick wall,” as McAloon put it. He craftily picks and chooses when he wants to talk and what he wants to say.Like his father and brother, Gbinije is very methodical in his approach to both the game and human interaction. He’ll make occasional wisecracks, but generally prefers to pop on his bulky red headphones and tune everything out. Between the lack of playing time and the team dynamic, the pressure at Duke simply wasn’t for him. “The reality is he just wasn’t happy with the situation,” Frank Gbinije said. “They wanted him to be a different person.”The decision to transfer came as a shock to his parents Frank and Yvette Gbinije. Yvette said Michael didn’t give them any clue. She even said she found out from newspapers and word of mouth, not from Michael himself. They had been talking about it as a family, but she never expected him to follow through. “He usually talks things over with us,” Yvette Gbinije said. “He thinks. He knows what he wants, too. He was very decisive, he took his decision like a man, and he did it.“We never expected him to do it.”No one did. Now that he’s at Syracuse, though, Gbinije has found a spot in the rotation. It’s the fresh start he desperately needed, and it’s allowed him to not only see more playing time, but to step out of the funk he was perpetually in at Duke.Syracuse always piqued Gbinije’s interest. His long arms are a perfect fit for the 2-3 zone. He’s 6-foot-7 but can also play guard. He can run the floor and rebound. “Once he saw Syracuse,” Yvette Gbinije said, “he decided this was it. When he went out there and met everybody he fell in love.”“I can tell his passion’s back,” Frank Gbinije said.The passion he exudes playing in the driveway with his brother, Brandon. The energy he brought at St. Benedictine College Prep when he would “score 10 points within the blink of an eye,” according to his assistant coach Mike Strickland. The intensity he brought to AAU Team Takeover.And the fire he lacked at Duke. “He’s trying to give himself a fresh start,” Frank Gbinije said, “and I believe he’s gotten that at Syracuse.” Commentslast_img

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