Syracuse guard Michael Gbinije helps Nigeria clinch Olympic berth

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While Canadian Jamal Murray was not able to compete with his national team at their upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament, another current college basketball player was able to do so for the nation in which his father was born. And for Syracuse senior guard Michael Gbinije, his run with the Nigerian national team at the Afrobasket 2015 tournament in Tunisia was the first step towards wrapping up a roster spot for next summer’s Olympics.

Nigeria defeated Angola 74-65 in Sunday’s title game, thus clinching a spot for the team in next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Gbinije scored five points in the win, and for the tournament he averaged 7.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per contest. Gbinije scored in double figures in two of Nigeria’s eight games, one being a 15-point, five-steal outing against Gabon.

Of course, being part of the roster for Afrobasket doesn’t guarantee Gbinije a spot on Nigeria’s Olympic roster next summer. But to be part of a team that not only clinched its spot in Rio but also won its first continental title is pretty special as both he and his father discussed with the Syracuse Post-Standard.

“Playing on this team was a unique experience for me,” he said. “Overall, I enjoyed playing with these guys.”

Frank Gbinije watched today’s game via FIBA’s live feed and was thrilled to see Nigeria win and his son contributing to the team’s push to Rio.

“I’m pretty excited,” Frank Gbinije said by telephone. “I’m glad he had the opportunity. I think it’s been a wonderful experience for him and something he can carry into his senior season at Syracuse.”

Former Illinois State guard Champ Oguchi led the Nigerians, which finished the game with five double-digit scorers, with 19 points. Among those on Angola’s team was former SMU big man Yanick Moreira, who finished the title game with 13 points and six rebounds.