Michael Gbinije

Michael Gbinije took the long road to the NBA. The No. 26 recruit in 2011, Gbinije took a scholarship to Duke. After playing limited minutes as a freshman for Mike Krzyzewski, he jumped to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Gbinije sat out a year before playing three full seasons for the Orange. In his senior season, Gbinije averaged 17.2 points, 4.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds en route to the Final Four. His five-year process culminated with Gbinije getting drafted No. 49 overall by the Pistons this year. A few months later, Gbinije was in Rio, playing for Nigeria, his father's homeland, in the Olympics. ThePostGame caught up with the 24-year-old rookie, who surprised many by making the Pistons' roster, on navigating Detroit, getting mentored by Dave Bing and his affinity for video games.

ThePostGame: Other than basketball, what have you been up to since graduation?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: Playing video games for the most part. Obviously we've been having tough practices and basically. I've just been wanting to rest and video games are a good way for me to rest.

TPG: Do you have the new 2K?
GBINIJE: I do not.

TPG: What have you been playing?
GBINIJE: Resident Evil 6 with my teammate Ray McCallum.

TPG: Who's better?
GBINIJE: Me, by far. We spend a lot of time at the practice facility and going through film and just talking about basketball in general, so when I get home, I kind of want to leave basketball outside of the house and focus on other stuff.

Michael Gbinije

TPG: How did you balance that in college?
GBINIJE: I remember during our Final Four, as soon as the NCAA Tournament started, we brought the Xbox for the road, and at that time we would play the 2K video game and we used to stay up until probably 11 at night just playing with all four controllers.

TPG: Well, it clearly helped you guys make a deep run.
GBINIJE: We're in a hotel room not going anywhere with four people playing at once, you kind of feel the team chemistry itself. And we're all completive, we're all trying to win, so we're not even focused at all on basketball as a whole. It's a nice way to get into a break.

TPG: Is it starting to sink in that you're an NBA player?
GBINIJE: Absolutely. It's definitely a dream come true, I'm just trying to step even further and decide to be better.

TPG: What have you learned this summer about the difference in the life of an NBA player versus a college kid?
GBINIJE: You get a lot more freedom as a player. The coaches in the NBA suspect that you're just professional, where in college, you're still an amateur and you even know it's kind of like a job, they view it as you're a student first where in the NBA that's your job, so they expect you to give it 100 percent and do stuff off the court and do the extra work on top.

TPG: A lot of young guys don't get to go to the Olympics like you did. How does that make this transition a lot easier for you into actual professional life?
GBINIJE: It is just another way for me to deal with professionals in general. Me, being a rookie on the Pistons, I've been fortunate enough to deal with professionals these past two years when I carry a basketball, so it just helps me interact with teammates better and the general.

TPG: One question that I was thinking about before I even knew I'd be interviewing you, during the Olympics, was when Coach K and Coach Boeheim are on the sidelines coaching USA and in the film room, do you think they mentioned your name at all?
GBINIJE: We did play against them in Houston. I'm sure they had to say something about me at some point but I don't know.

TPG: This is going back a little, but when you look at your transfer and the fact you are in the NBA now, how glad are you that you made that decision?
GBINIJE: If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change anything. Going to Duke my freshman year out of high school was a huge eye-opener for me and showed me things I had to work on. It also showed me the type of program I wanted to be in, and after I transferred to Syracuse, I thought it was better for me as a person and as a player.

Michael Gbinije, Duke

TPG: So many high school kids see Duke as a place to go. What's your, I guess, tread carefully, advice to them when making that college decision?
GBINIJE: You want to make the best decision for you. A lot of times, the kids make it with your parents or they're going off of the school's stats, but I feel like you want to make the best decision for you on and off the court. So if you want to play right away, then you have to make sure you pick the school that's telling you you can play right away. It all really depends on the player.

TPG: Syracuse moved to the ACC, ironically, so what kind of kind of conversations did you have with Coach K after games when you guys played against Duke?
GBINIJE: It was always short, but sweet. It was never any disrespect or anything. It was always respectful. Typically, just, "Good game." One of us had to lose and he did get the better end of the stick, but the one time we did beat them, he was like, "Good job," and he was happy with the player I turned out to be.

TPG: Now, you are a 24-year-old rookie. There are a lot of 19-year-old rookies out there. How much better do you think that makes your transition? There's an obvious maturity level, but how comfortable are you being a 24-year-old rookie?
GBINIJE: I'm pretty comfortable. I talk to my dad before a game and he always tells me just because you're a rookie, I mean obviously you have stuff to learn, but you got to view it as you deserve to play with the guys since you're at that level. Even when you're on a team like the Pistons, for example, I'm always with a good amount of guys who are second, third-year players, so you earn a little respect because of age alone, and at the end of the day, it's just basketball and teammates, and you want to be a good teammate and compete and learn at the same time.

TPG: How much time had you spent in Detroit before the draft?
Gbinije: Never been to Detroit before the draft.

TPG: Wow. Now, what have you noticed about the city? What's your experience been like?
GBINIJE: Well I'm a huge car guy. So I find it great that I'm in the Motor City. I have a Dodge Charger, and there's a lot of culture, a lot of history. Motown music. I love music. Detroit's got a lot of music background to it and I think the city overall is just cool.

TPG: So you got a Dodge Charger. What are your favorite cars?
GBINIJE: I’ve always been a Dodge guy. My next dream car is probably going to be a Ferrari but that's way way down the road. I just love cars in general. As long as it looks nice and has four wheels I’m good.

Michael Gbinije

TPG: Did you root for the Pistons growing up? Who did you grow up rooting for?
GBINIJE: I have always been a guy that roots for superstars. Growing up, I was a LeBron guy, I was a Kobe guy, an Allen Iverson guy. Those were probably the top three people I looked up to. So I used to root for their teams they played for. One team that does stick out to me was the Rick Hamilton Pistons when they had [Tayshaun] Prince and Ben Wallace and [Chauncey] Billups. I really liked that team.

TPG: Have you met any Pistons legends -- Isiah Thomas or maybe Bill Laimbeer?
GBINIJE: Dave Bing. He was a Syracuse guy.

TPG: Of course. What did he tell you about playing in Detroit?
GBINIJE: He was very cool when I met him. I met him at Syracuse first before I was even knowing I was going to Detroit, but when I got to Detroit again, I met him and he basically told me that if I need anything, just let him know. He's just a good mentor for me off this court and he's just a guy that has already been there and has done well, so anything he can share I would definitely listen to him.

TPG: You know he's a rather powerful man in Detroit (Bing was the city's mayor from 2009-2013). What current Pistons players have been mentors to you so far?
GBINIJE: Reggie Jackson. He's been a guy who will stop drills and point out stuff to me. He'll tell me what to look for like whenever we're actually playing. He's done a good job so far of being a leader and pointing out things to help me become a better player.

TPG: There are some people that say Reggie didn't get along so well with [Kevin] Durant and [Russell] Westbrook in OKC. But for him and Andre [Drummond], how important is their leadership in Detroit?
GBINIJE: I think they've been great leaders so far. Reggie obviously helps me on the court, but Andre's been a guy off the court that I've been able to adjust to real easily. We play Call of Duty at his house, and he has just been a guy that is very reliable.

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