Almost since his first collegiate basketball game four years ago, Duke center Mike Gminski has been praised as a big man with great touch from the outside, excellent rebounding skills and an intelligent manner on the court.
At the same time he has been constantly criticized for one thing: a lack of agressiveness, especially on defense. That complaint was heard again two weeks ago when Gminski gave up 22 points to Kentucky's freshman center Sam Bowie in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. Gminski scored five points in overtime to key Duke's 82-76 victory but the word was out: same old Gminski.
But after his play in the Big Four Tournament, that word has changed. He is coming to play and play hard. In leading his third-ranked team to wins over Wake Forest and North Carolina, earning the tournament most valuable palyer award for a second straight year, Gminski scored 47 points and had 28 rebounds. The key statistic was his number of blocked shots, 12.
A lot of the credit for the 6-foot-11 senior's play has to go to Coach Bill Foster and his assistants, Bob Wenzel and Steve Steinwadle. All have worked extremely hard with Gminski, a gentle person by nature, to convince him he must turn mean on the court.
"I know for us to win I have to be aggressive defensively," Gminski said Saturday night. "I have to come out and block shots and crash the boards."
Gminski has made that statement repeatedly the last thre years. But even last year when he was the ACC player of the year and an All-America, he disappeared from games at times.
Such was not the case in Greensboro last weekend as he played 77 minutes in two games. If that trend continues, Gminski could be as good as any collegiate player in the country.