Michael Gbinije will be star for Syracuse basketball this season

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Gbinije is ready to take the leap to stardom

Good news Syracuse fans: Michel Gbinije is ready. The timid yet talented senior is ready to lead the Syracuse Orange this upcoming season, a far leap from where he was two season ago.

Gbinije has been a polarizing player since his arrival as a transfer from Duke. As the only other ball-handler on the roster, he was less than impressive backing up Tyler Ennis during the 2013-2014 campaign. He shot the ball poorly (38%) and didn’t do much in his 15 minutes per game, largely due to passiveness.
Still, even as he struggled, many people believed he could be special.

Let’s not forget, he came out of High School as a Top-30 recruit and landed at Duke. Not to toot Duke’s horn too much, but if you are recruited to Durham, you have some talent. Maybe it was Coach K’s style that stifled Gbinije, and maybe he needed a season under Boeheim to get comfortable, but he finally began to put it all together last year as he learned to be more aggressive and confident.

Still, thrust into the starting line-up (and asked to do a lot as Kaleb Joseph struggled), Gbinije started off slow. He put up three stinkers in a row against Iowa, Loyal and Holy Cross, before playing relatively well against Michigan. After that he went back and forth from playing like he did a season before, to showing why he was recruited so highly. It wasn’t until a 6 game stretch in late January/Early February that he put it all together to showcase the player he can be.

» Related: Will Jim Boeheim really coach Syracuse basketball three more seasons?

During that stretch (featuring the February 14th tilt against Duke in which he single-handedly kept the game close in the first half), Gbinije averaged 20.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2.5 spg, only 1.8 turnovers per game, AND he shot 59% from the field overall, along with a staggering 51% from three. For 3 weeks during the meat of the regular season, Michael Gbinije just may have been the best player in College Basketball.

He struggled after that though, again polarizing fans who were looking for consistency. But, six games in a row is not a fluke. And had he not come back down to earth, he likely would have ended up in the NBA Draft, instead of back for his senior season.

A lot of people are expecting Tyler Roberson to ascend into superstardom and not Gbinije. I made the same prediction last season, only to be thoroughly disappointed. Gbinije continues to fly under the radar, even though he’s clearly the best returning player the Orange have. He’s Demetris Nichols to Roberson’s Terrence Roberts. Roberts was the highly touted recruit in 2003, expected to become a star, and instead it was Nichols who rose to prominence and eventually a brief NBA stint.

In fact, Nichols and Gbinije have had incredibly similar careers to this point. Take a look:

Gbinije

Season

G

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

2P

2PA

2P%

3P

3PA

3P%

FT

FTA

FT%

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

2011-12

19

5.8

0.6

1.1

.550

0.4

0.5

.700

0.2

0.5

.400

0.4

0.4

1.000

0.8

0.2

0.2

0.1

0.4

1.0

1.7

2013-14

34

14.6

1.0

2.7

.380

0.6

1.4

.408

0.4

1.3

.349

0.9

1.4

.646

1.8

1.2

0.7

0.2

0.5

1.6

3.4

2014-15

30

35.0

4.6

10.0

.460

3.0

5.8

.509

1.6

4.2

.392

1.9

3.3

.571

5.0

3.6

1.9

0.3

2.1

2.8

12.7

2015-16

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

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Nichols

Season 

G

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

2P

2PA

2P%

3P

3PA

3P%

FT

FTA

FT%

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

2003-04

26

17.0

1.6

4.7

.347

1.0

1.9

.510

0.7

2.8

.236

0.3

0.7

.444

2.2

0.6

0.6

0.6

4.2

2004-05

27

12.9

1.4

3.8

.379

0.9

1.6

.558

0.6

2.2

.250

0.5

0.7

.722

2.1

0.5

0.4

0.3

3.9

2005-06

35

33.3

4.7

11.0

.427

2.6

5.3

.497

2.1

5.7

.363

1.8

2.7

.677

5.8

1.4

1.3

0.9

13.3

2006-07

35

34.8

6.4

14.4

.447

3.6

7.5

.475

2.9

6.9

.417

3.2

3.8

.850

5.4

1.5

1.4

1.1

18.9

Both players had big jumps between their sophomore and junior seasons. Nichols then improved to 18.9 ppg with 5.4 rpg his senior season, but only 1.5 assists, and he shot a pedestrian 44% from the field.

Looking at how much better Gbinije has been shooting the ball, and of course his vast superiority as a distributor, I don’t think I’m reaching by predicting something like 49% shooting, 42% from downtown, 17ppg, 5rpg, 6apg, and 2spg. He needs to improve his FT% of course, but with his outside stroke, that shouldn’t be too difficult for him.

Much like Nichols and Rakeem Christmas last year, Michael Gbinije is ready to fulfill his potential in his senior season. He broke out last year, and for 6 games was one of the best players in the county. This year, he’ll be in the elite all season.

For more Syracuse coverage, Like our Facebook page and follow us @TheJuiceOnline.

Matt Goodman

About Matt Goodman

Matt worked for the Westchester Journal News, covering a variety of sports. He has also covered Syracuse University basketball from 2003-05 in both online and print. Matt graduated from Syracuse University in 2004 and currently resides in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @mattgoodman44.
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