The top-rated player in Duke’s 2011 recruiting class, Austin Rivers, is gone and headed to the NBA next season. Michael Gbinije, the second-highest rated freshman, is also departing but for a very different reason.
Whereas Rivers used his lone year in Durham as a trampoline to launch him to the game’s highest level, Gbinije never got his footing and will transfer. Once the No. 29 recruit in the nation, Gbinije is willing to sit out for a year just so he can play elsewhere.
Duke fans, between Gbinije transfering, the opening-round loss to Lehigh in the NCAA tournament and the one-person recruiting class coming in next season, it’s time to FREAK OUT! Abandon ship! Honestly, Duke will be lucky to make it to the NIT next season!
You know all of that is true because it includes two words in all capital letters and three exclamation points. And all sentences beginning with “honestly” must truly be honest, because any sentence without being prefaced that way is obviously dishonest.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.
Sarcasm aside—somebody who works for a newspaper quitting drinking? What a riot!—the Blue Devils will actually be just fine next year. I personally think they might be quite good, but more importantly, it is not the end of the world as Duke knows it.
Good players transfer, even away from top teams, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski is more than well-equipped to handle it. He has done so in the past and will do the same with next year’s team. From a pure depth-chart perspective, it is difficult to know how much Gbinije might have contributed next season. Alex Murphy, who was recruited alongside Gbinije but redshirted last year, fits better into Duke’s offense at the same position while holding an extra year of eligibility.
Even without Murphy, Duke often played a three-guard lineup last season and will have a crowded backcourt yet again with incoming freshman Rasheed Sulaimon competing for minutes against Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry.
It’s easy to see why Gbinije wasn’t eager to stick around in that melee for minutes and why it was probably hard for the Duke staff to sit him down and explain how his role would fit his hype next season.
Olek Czyz, another top-100 recruit, transferred midway through his sophomore season in 2010 after one-and-a-half disappointing seasons with the Blue Devils. Following a strong senior year at Nevada, though, he might be selected in June’s NBA Draft. Between Czyz and Gbinije, maybe the coaching staff just gets tired of players whose names they can’t pronounce.
Elliot Williams, who transferred to Memphis in 2009 and played one more collegiate season before going pro, now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. Williams and Czyz were good players, but the team certainly did not miss the pair when it was cutting down the nets after the 2010 national championship.
This program is built to handle losing good players because good players are plentiful in Durham. It’s about having the right players, and sometimes even the most talented ones don’t fit that mold, so it’s probably best for both parties involved to part ways. It’s no indictment of Gbinije’s skills or character, which are both reportedly quite high, but players who struggle to shoot the 3-pointer struggle to get minutes in Duke’s offense.
Krzyzewski may not run the type of one-and-done-hired-guns program that John Calipari has mastered at Kentucky, guaranteeing the Wildcats a top-five ranking seemingly every season from now until the end of time, but Duke will have no trouble competing with the best of the best for next season’s ACC crown.
This one straw won’t break the Blue Devils’ back. Don’t freak out.
Looks like I picked a fine week to quit drinking.