Trevor Mbakwe Should Be A First Rounder Despite Injury
Projecting how a big man can return from a season-ending knee injury is always difficult, especially one as athletic and agile as Trevor Mbakwe. Scouts will need every bit of footage from the Minnesota forward to assess the risk involved with Mbakwe. After six games of 14 points and 9 rebounds per game and a undefeated start, Mbakwe went down, clutching his knee and missed the remainder of what was supposed to be his senior season; Minnesota was hardly above-average, 16-15 in the 31 games without him, but managed to string together some late-season victories in the NIT only to lose in the finals. Had Mbakwe been healthy, Minnesota would have been vying for a NCAA Tournament run.
Despite five college seasons, Mbakwe, now-eligible for a second senior year, has played just one full schedule and under 50 total games. Scouts' notes on the Mbakwe saga included a transfer from Marquette, missing some time with a leg injury, then unexpectedly transfering to Miami-Dade Community College just days before classes began in 2008-09. During his days Florida, but after he then transferred again, this time to the Golden Gophers, he was accused of felony assault on a woman, and deemed ineligible by the Minnesota AD until the final resolution of the criminal case. The soap opera continued when Mbakwe was almost suspended again for a "lapse in judgment" when he contacted an ex-girlfriend over social media despite a harassment restraining order. In the end, he wasn't suspended and produced averages of 13.9 points and 10.5 rebounds, while shooting .582 percent on the floor in the 2010-11 season. Needless to say, a healthy medical check-up and interviews will be of the uttmost importance for Mbakwe, moreso than any other player in recent memory.
This season, staying healthy (and out of trouble) will be huge for him. That's an enormous "if", considering we don't yet know how he is healing and conditioned, but if he can get through a full season and produce the numbers he is capable of, Mbakwe has the ability to significantly impact the game. He's extremely aggressive on the offensive end, attacking the rim in relentless fashion and getting to the foul line at a high-rate; in fact, before getting injured, his free-throw rate led the nation by a large margin, helping him score over 40 percent of his points from the charity stripe. Though a six game sample size is too small to be significant, Mbakwe averaged 3.9 offensive rebounds per game last year (and 3.1 the year before), while some more stout, aggressive play on the defensive glass has him primed to be one of the national leaders again.