Benedictine grad Gbinije eyes spot on Nigerian Olympic Team

FILE - In this March 24, 2016, file photo, Syracuse's Michael Gbinije shoots during college...
FILE - In this March 24, 2016, file photo, Syracuse's Michael Gbinije shoots during college basketball practice in Chicago. Michael Gbinije, the second-round draft pick of the Detroit Pistons, will try to impress his new team and he will also have a chance to play in the Olympics after helping Nigeria qualify last year. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)(Nam Y. Huh | AP)
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 11:12 PM EDT
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LAS VEGAS, NV (WWBT) - Area basketball fans watched Michael Gbinije hit the court for Benedictine, then play his college basketball at Syracuse. Now the former Cadet looks to return to the national stage.

Gbinije is one step away from making his second straight Olympic appearance for Nigeria. He was on the team in 2016 during the Rio games. The guard made the latest cut as the squad was trimmed from 49 players to 16, a roster that will eventually be reduced to 12 prior to the start of Olympic competition. He was announced as part of the 15-man roster on Nigeria’s official team website, while an updated 16-man roster was posted on the squad’s official Twitter page.

The former Benedictine star will accompany the team to Las Vegas for a pre-Olympic exhibition tournament.

Gbinije’s father, Frank, hails from Nigeria and Michael was the first on his father’s side of the family born in the United States. Prior to the 2016 games, Frank expressed excitement that his son had the chance to take the court wearing Nigeria’s colors on the Olympic stage.

“To make it and have the opportunity to go to Brazil in international competition, it’s a great sense of pride if it gets to that point,” the elder Gbinije said back in March of 2016 prior to Syracuse’s Sweet 16 appearance.

Gbinije did not play in the professional ranks in 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns, but boasts a fair amount of pro experience. He was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft and appeared with the Grand Rapids Drive, the team’s D-League affiliate. He would sign with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the G-League the following season, before heading overseas in 2019.

This marks Nigeria basketball’s third consecutive trip to the Olympics. The team has never advanced beyond pool play.

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