The Duke transfer was swayed by the campus energy and two teammates.
Credit Rak, Cooney and the annual Mayfest party for Syracuse landing Duke transfer Michael Gbinije this weekend. He’s looking for a fresh start, and spoke to The Fizz about why SU is the best place to do that. The 6’6″ forward was on the Hill Friday hanging with Rakeem Christmas, and then officially transferred from Durham. He couldn’t be any more excited about the change. Gbinije, a freshman last year for the Blue Devils, played limited minutes for Coach K’s bunch. He announced his plans to transfer nearly two weeks ago. Orange Nation woke up to some good news on Saturday morning, as SU adds the physical swingman to its roster for 2013. Gbinije tells The Fizz that he found a new home.
“It feels good. Syracuse is a good fit. I feel comfortable with the coaching staff and I just feel like this is the best place for me to have a fresh start. I can’t wait to come and enjoy the rest of my college career up there.”
In case you’re wondering it’s pronounced Ben-Uh-Jay. Silent G. Probably the biggest factor in reeling in Gbinije was his pal Christmas. The two had played together in numerous offseason and national tournaments. Gbinije and Christmas spent the day together while MG was visiting. The two hung out at the always delirious Mayfest, and Gbinije feels a bond.
“Rakeem is real cool. We were on the same team for the  Jordan Brand Classic, and I got a chance to kick it with him. Me and him enjoy the same things and have similar personalities.”
Gbinije also said he was very close with Trevor Cooney. MG actually spoke with the sharpshooter extensively about the experience of sitting out for an entire season. Due to transfer rules, we won’t see the Virginia native in action until fall ’13. He does, however, have three full years of eligibility left. Is Gbinije frustrated about riding the pine for a year? Nope, he’s actually embraced the idea. He tells The Fizz sitting out next year is very important for his development.
“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.”
What’s so effective about Gbinije’s game is his ability to get to the rim, but also his deadly spot up shooting. He can beat you inside and out because he’s such an aggressive attacker. You have to be able to guard both elements of his game. His play is similar to Kris Joseph, but Gbinije is a bit quicker and has a better ability to drive. He and Cooney should compliment one another well down the road. This adds necessary depth to a team that will be losing Brandon Triche to graduation after this season, and the possibility Michael Carter-Williams could leave for the NBA early.
Gbinije was the seventh-best small forward in the class of ’11. Syracuse had offered him during his recruitment process, but he verbally committed to Duke late in his junior year. He did admit though that he had a good deal of interest in SU during the time. Playing for Jim Boeheim was always exciting for Gbinije, and now he has the opportunity to do so.
“It’s an honor to play for him. He has accomplished so much with not just Syracuse basketball, but team USA, and I feel he can help improve me as a basketball player.”
Gbinije did not want to talk about why he left Duke. It’s something he has already put behind him, as he is looking forward to his future at Syracuse. He said couldn’t get enough of the “great energy” from the campus when he was up here on Friday. Although SU fans didn’t expect any additions to its roster this weekend, the inclusion of Gbinije will be huge down the road. And in his first season with SU, he’ll get to show Coach K exactly what he missed out on.
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald