Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe completed his ninth of 13 NBA predraft workouts Monday in a familiar city, in front of a familiar face.
Mbakwe came home to Minnesota for Monday’s workout in front of new Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, a frequent visitor to his alma mater and Williams Arena last season.
“He practically lived there,” Mbakwe said.
Saunders reminded Indiana star and former Big Ten Freshman of the Year Cody Zeller that Mbakwe last winter “kicked his butt” when Zeller worked out for the Wolves last week.
On Monday, Mbakwe came to Target Center looking a little lighter and leaner than last season. He is also looking in this predraft tour from NBA city to NBA city that he has the energy and instincts to make it in a league — most likely as a second-round pick — where he will have to be something of an undersized power forward.
“I get that a lot,” Mbakwe said when reminded of a game last winter when he clearly outplayed a likely NBA lottery pick and his Gophers upset then-No. 1 Indiana. “A lot of guys were at that game. It was a good game for me to have with all the [NBA] GMs and coaches there. It was definitely something good to have on your résumé.”
Mbakwe compared himself to current NBA power forwards Kenneth Faried and Jason Maxiell — because he considers both “high-energy guys” and he considers himself one of those guys as well.
“That’s what is going to get me in the league and keep me there,” Mbakwe said.
Saunders said his familiarity with Mbakwe makes no difference in this draft process, but Mbakwe’s game and skills do. “He is what he is: He’s a defender, competitor, shot blocker, rebounder,” Saunders said. “That’s what he does.”
The Wolves own two picks late in the second round — as well as the ninth and 26th pick in the first round — that they could use to select St. Paul-raised Mbawke, if he’s still around that late in the draft.
“I’d be lucky to wear a Timberwolves jersey,” Mbakwe said after a group workout that included perimeter shooters/scorers Deshaun Thomas from Ohio State, Reggie Bullock from North Carolina, Tony Snell from New Mexico and Carrick Felix from Arizona State.
The Wolves have two more days of workouts scheduled, Tuesday and Friday before the June 27 draft.
Lehigh combo guard C.J. McCollum — a player the Wolves will contemplate with their ninth overall pick — will work out alone for Saunders and his staff after six other players, including Illinois guard Brandon Paul and former Georgia Tech forward Glen Rice Jr., participate in a six-player workout.