It’s been a productive summer already for Orange hoops. Rakeem Christmas and Michael Gbinije are getting an early start on Syracuse’s first season in the ACC by playing on the East Coast All-Stars this past week in Estonia during the Four Nations Cup. Dynamic wing player Derrick Jones will take an unofficial visit to the Hill at the end of August. Highly coveted Isaiah Whitehead says he will take another trip to Syracuse (as well as Arizona and UCLA).
Rak and Gbinije lost in the final game of the tournament 88-79 to Estonia. Saturday was not so kind for the duo as Christmas had only four points and Gbinije went scoreless. However, both players shined in the semi-finals game on Friday. Gbinije went 7-for-8 with 16 points and 7 boards. Meanwhile, Christmas went 3-for-3 from the field and had three rebounds on the day.
With a season of new faces, it’s a great head start for Christmas and Gbinije to have a feel for each other’s style of play. Christmas is entering a critical year where he will be expected to take his game to the next level, something that fans are still waiting to see. Gbinije was around the team all last season after his transfer from Duke, but had to sit out the season because of NCAA rules. Along with a few of the five new freshmen, Gbinije will be expected to make an immediate impact when he hits the floor.
Syracuse is entering a season with question marks in the backcourt with the departures of Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams. Gbinije will be looked at to help out wherever needed. He’s more of a wing player and an aggressive scorer. The SF position is going to have plenty of talent in C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant, so it might be to Gbinije’s benefit to focus on perfecting his shot this offseason to gain minutes. According to his high school coach, Gbinije can “play either position. He shoots it well enough to be a 2, and he’s long enough to be a 3.”
Freshman Tyler Ennis is the only true point guard on the roster next year, so making sure the versatile players help out in all areas will be key. Jim Boeheim has said they’ve already worked Gbinije out at point guard to get a feel for him, and that Mike could see 8-10 minutes a game spelling Ennis. Syracuse should be able to use the first half of the season to build on-court relationships and work out the kinks before the conference starts. Christmas and Gbinije building cohesion in both of their games before practice even starts is exactly what the Orange need to get a jump on the upcoming season.
Posted: Zephan Mayell