The one and done. The two and done. These are the realities in the current landscape of college basketball. Talented players stay one, maybe two years before bolting for the professional ranks. Gone is the time when players stayed in college and developed their games for three or four years before pursuing a career in the NBA.
Now, players go as early as possible in order to snag that first contract. It is unfortunate, and has hurt the quality of the college game to some extent.
That is why players like Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney are exceptions to those rules and should be celebrated. Both are fifth year seniors who have used college to develop their games, become better players and are now leading a team that has been a surprise in the early portion of the college basketball season.
Gbinije sat out a year after transferring in from Duke. Cooney redshirted his freshman year. Now, they form one of the most experienced, talented and productive backcourts in the ACC.
Over the years, Gbinije has improved his game significantly. His ball handling has improved so much that he has moved from small forward to point guard and is playing the position at a very high level. Not only that, his shooting ability, scoring acumen, passing and court vision have seen drastic improvements.
As a junior, Gbinije shot 46% from the floor, 39% from beyond the three-point arc and averaged under 13 points per game. Through six games as a senior, he is shooting 52.9% from the floor, 51.3% from three and is scoring nearly 20 points per game. Those are significant improvements. His assist numbers are up, steals are way up and is shooting better from the free-throw line (72.7% vs 57.1%).
Cooney, too, has seen improvements in his game. His assists, steals, and three-point percentage are all up. His ability to penetrate and either attack the rim or kick to an open teammate has been a pleasant surprise this year. Cooney showe flashes last season, but is clearly more comfortable this year.
The landscape of college basketball is such that parody is promoted. Upsets occur on a more frequent basis than in the past. One major reason is because mid-major type programs have more veteran rosters featuring rotations that have more experience playing together. That makes up for the talent gap that may be in place.
With players like Cooney and Gbinije playing most of your minutes in the backcourt, Syracuse has the best of both worlds.
It will never go back to the days when that was the norm. When staying four or five years was commonplace. Rather, the one and dones will continue to be the rule rather than the exception.
Despite that, count me in as someone who finds the Gbinije's and Cooney's of the world refreshing.