This past weekend, I had the opportunity to talk to OKC Blue guard Michael Gbinije and ask him a few questions.
Gbinije grew up in Richmond, Virginia. He was a 4-star prospect out of high school with many powerhouse schools offering him scholarships. In 2011, Gbinije committed to Duke.
He didn’t see much time on the court his freshman year, playing only 6 minutes per game off the bench.
Following his freshman year, Gbinije decided to transfer to Syracuse. He was redshirted in 2013 and ready to go in 2014. He saw an increase in playing time and was a valuable piece off the bench, playing 15 minutes per game.
Gbinije took a jump his junior season. He averaged 12.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals in 35 minutes per game on 46.0/39.2/57.1 splits.
Gbinije continued to improve in his senior season. He averaged 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.9 steals (led ACC) in 38 minutes per game on 46.1/39.1/66.3 splits. Gbinije was named to All-ACC second team and All-ACC defense.
That same season, Syracuse was selected as a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. In the big dance, Syracuse made an immaculate run to the final 4, becoming the fourth double-digit seed to ever make it that far.
Gbinije’s incredible senior season put him on the radar of many NBA teams. His defense, versatility, and athleticism made him a great prospect.
He was selected with the 49th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons.
During his rookie season, Gbinije spent most of his season with the Grand Rapids Drive (the Pistons G League affiliate) and was waived in the offseason.
In 2017, Gbinije signed with the Warriors. He played with the Santa Cruz Warriors (the Warriors G League affiliate) for two years before electing to play internationally with a few teams.
In 2021, Gbinije was drafted with the 9th overall pick in the 2021 NBA G League draft by the Iowa Wolves (the Timberwolves G League affiliate). Shortly after he was dealt to the OKC Blue (the Thunder G League affiliate), where he currently plays.
In 2022 with the OKC Blue, Gbinije has averaged 4.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.5 steals in 21 minutes per game.
He has also played for the Nigerian national team.
Here’s the interview:
Q: In your final season at Syracuse, the team made a “cinderella run” to the final 4 as a 10 seed. What was your experience like playing in the madness of March, especially as a constant underdog?
A: The tournament was pressure free for me while playing. After finding out that we made the tournament it was like we were playing with house money in my opinion. I think being able to play free with no expectations made playing more fun.
Q: You played for two of the best coaches in the world, Coach K and Coach Boeheim. What was your biggest takeaway from these legends?
A: That greatness is not a destination. It’s a habit. Every day the effort and attention to detail were needed especially in practice. Both of them were competitive and achieved greatness and legendary careers because of the habits that they had. My biggest takeaway is that living in the moment and giving things your all will only improve things for you going forward.
Q: There are pros and cons to playing overseas. Was it a hard decision to move to another country with a new language and a new culture to play basketball? Did you feel it was a necessary move in order to advance your basketball career?
A: At the moment I felt like I needed to experience overseas basketball just to check the box and see if it was worth it or not to me. I would say it was a necessary move for me because not only did it give me a new perspective on basketball but it gave me another option as far as where I could possibly take my career.
Q: You are 29 years old. Many see that age and think that a player is in the back half of their professional career. Talk to me about your mentality when approaching each year in your quest to make it back to the NBA.
A: Yeah it is in my mind. I can only control what I can control. For me, part of the journey is establishing better habits and systems for myself. Hopefully, with better habits and improvement in the ways I do things, my goals and aspirations can be achieved.
Q: Lastly, I wanna talk about your game. You pride yourself on being an elite defensive player. Do you feel the defensive side of the ball is the strongest part of your game? Also, the NBA G League is a place for development. What part of your game do you want to improve the most while you’re in the G League and how would this skill help you at the NBA level?
A: I do pride myself on my defense. Making the most of every possession whether it’s making a shot, grabbing a rebound, or getting a stop, I think I’m capable of all of those things. Shooting the 3-ball has worked for me at times during my g league seasons as well. Being more comfortable making plays off the bounce, and drawing fouls both defensively and offensively will make me a better prospect as a basketball player as well.
Thank you so much to Michael Gbinije for these fantastic responses. I encourage all fans to support their local G League team and try to attend games because the talent there is truly remarkable.