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Sports Then and Now

Mike Gminski: Four-Year Duke Star

Posted on March 10, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Mike Gminski

Mike Gminski

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a star big man who achieved great success at Camden Indoor Stadium in the era before Coach K and the One-and-Done big men became the norm at Duke University.

Much like recent Duke big men Marvin Bagley III, Jayson Tatum and Jahlil Okafor, Mike Gminski made an immediate impact for the Blue Devils. However, because he played 40 years earlier at a time when few players left college early, Gminski spent four years racking up stats and success in Durham.

As a freshman in 1976-77, Gminski averaged 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, but the Blue Devils struggled to finish with a winning record at 14-13 (only 2-10 in the ACC). He was named ACC co-Freshman of the Year along with Hawkeye Whitney from N.C. State.

The next season, featuring not just Gminski, but other budding young stars Gene Banks, Jim Spanarkel and Kenny Dennard, the Blue Devils emerged as an ACC and national contender. Gminski averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest as Duke went 27-7 and finished second in the ACC.

Playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years, Duke reached the final four. They defeated Notre Dame in the semifinals before losing the national title game to Kentucky.

Gminski was the ACC Player of the Year and a first team All-American as a junior averaging 18.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Duke again reached the ACC Tournament, but lost to St. John’s 80-78 in their only game.

As a senior, Gminski averaged career-highs of 21.3 points and 10.9 rebounds, but he fell to second team All-American as Jo Berry Carroll from Purdue was the first team All-American center. In the NCAA Tournament Duke won their first two games, including edging Kentucky 55-54, before losing to Carroll and Purdue 68-60 in the Elite Eight.

Gminski graduated from Duke as their career leader with 2,323 points (now ranks fifth) and rebounds 1,242 rebounds (now ranks second) and was selected by the New Jersey Nets with the seventh pick in the NBA Draft.

After a solid rookie season in which he averaged 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, Gminski struggled the next three seasons playing primarily in a reserve role.

He moved into the starting lineup during the 1984-85 campaign and for the next three seasons was an anchor for the Nets. However, after making the playoffs five straight seasons, the Nets struggled through the 1986-87 campaign.

During the 1987-88 season, Gminski averaged then career-highs with 16.9 points and 10 rebounds per game despite being traded from the Nets to Philadelphia during the season.

Teaming with Charles Barkley, Gminski helped lead the 76ers to the playoffs in both 1989 and 1990.

He was traded back to North Carolina during the 1990-91 season and spent the next two and a half seasons in Charlotte. Gminski finished his career playing eight games with the Milwaukee Bucks at the end of the 1993-94 season.

In 14 NBA seasons, Gminski averaged 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest.

Since retirement, Gminski has been a basketball analyst for ACC Basketball and CBS Sports.

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