Entering the season, Michael Gbinije was considered one of the key pieces to the success of the Syracuse basketball Orange. But things did not go well from the onset for the junior wing. He missed the opener for an undisclosed, non-injury related reason.
He followed that up with early performances of 3-8, 1-8 and 1-4 from the field. Gbinije was drawing the ire of head coach Jim Boeheim due to his lackluster performances. But ever since he hit double figures against Michigan, he has turned things around.
The only game Gbinije did not reach double figures in the last five was against Louisiana Tech where he missed the entire second half with a sore back. He returned against Villanova as arguably Syracuse’s best player.
He poured in 18 points, snatched eight rebounds and handed out five assists while also contributing three steals defensively. He continues his strong play in a blowout win against Colgate on Monday, adding 11 points, five boards and three dimes while hitting two out of his three points from beyond the arc.
Gbinije is averaging 11 points, four assists and five rebounds per game over the last five while shooting 54% from the floor and 38% from deep. Not only that, but Gbinije has taken some pressure off of true freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph by bringing the ball up the court.
Gbinije is of critical importance to Syracuse, as he can play either guard position and has been starting at small forward recently. His ability to play three positions allows Syracuse to rest their starters without going to deep into their bench.
Not only does he provide versatility, but he has been playing at a high level recently. That suggests he is finally growing into the role that Jim Boeheim envisioned before the season began.
”He’s been getting better,” Boeheim said. “He was really good on Saturday and that’s why we played better. One of the main reasons we played better. He’s got to be a big factor for us as we go forward. There’s no question about that.”
He has been more aggressive both in terms of taking the open shot and attacking the basket off the dribble. Over the last two games in particular, he has shown nice touch on his mid-range jumper. Add to that a willingness to rebound and distribute, and Gbinije is becoming a very strong player for the Orange.
For a Syracuse offense that appeared severely limited at the beginning of the season, the growth of Gbinije and development of Trevor Cooney have made a huge difference on that end of the floor. It makes the Orange offense a formidable one as Gbinije and Cooney combine with Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough to give them a nice inside-outside punch.
With conference play looming at the beginning of the new year, he is picking the perfect time to start rounding into form.