Longtime Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski knew he saw something good when he recruited Syracuse University junior forward Michael Gbinije from Benedictine College Prep.
Gbinije was ranked 28th in the 2011 class by ESPNU 100. He was rated 26th overall by Scout.com and ranked 35th overall and ninth among small forwards by Rivals.com.
So, it was no surprise to Krzyzewski, who has led his team to four national championships and four gold medals as the head coach of the USA Men’s National team, of Gbinije’s performance against the No. 4 ranked Duke Blue Devils in front of a sellout crowd of 35,466 fans at the Carrier Dome.
During the first half of SU’s 80-72 loss to Duke, it was a one-man show for the Orange as on this blustery cold evening, Gbinije warmed up the Dome quickly with his hot touch against his former team. He had nearly half of the team’s points (19) and connected on 7 of 9 shots, including 5 of 6 from beyond the arc. SU led 39-36 at the break.
“Look, we recruited Mike cause we thought he was good,” Krzyzewski joked. “I wish he stayed. But he didn’t. He’s a great kid playing for a great coach. Great kid. Great family. They didn’t need our recommendation. Jim (Boeheim) can handle that by himself. They did everything the right way.”
“I’m just glad he turned out to be the player we thought he’d be. And I’m glad he didn’t beat us tonight.”
Gbinije finished with 27 points (10-for-14 shooting), six rebounds and four assists. He also added one block and one steal against the Blue Devils. His five 3-pointers marked a new career high, with all-five coming in the first half.
“The first half, I was feeling it,” Gbinije said. “I went after it. In the second half, I came in with the same mindset, but things were just different.”
Gbinije has been the Orange’s top offensive weapon as of late. He scored a team-high 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the win at Boston College. He, along with senior Rakeem Christmas, led all Orange scorers with 23 points in the loss to Pittsburgh and scored the final six points of his 18 totals points, in the thrilling 72-70 win against Virginia Tech.
“I don’t know that you can do anything more than Mike is doing right now,” Boeheim said. “He’s playing great basketball. He’s doing everything.”