Mbakwe tries to catch someone's eye at NBA draft combine

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 17, 2013 - 7:23 AM

The former Gopher has moved on to the next stage in his life, trying to make it as an undersized NBA power forward.

hide

Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, left, battles over a rebound with Indiana's Derek Elston

 

– Former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe arrived Thursday at the doorstep of his dreams — the annual combine for the NBA draft’s top prospects — after admittedly taking the long way around.

In a sweepstakes often won by the collegiate game’s one-and-done teenagers, Mbakwe is an old-timer who hopes to convince just one NBA executive that his off-court legal issues and season-ending knee injury two years ago are far behind him and a professional career awaits an undersized power forward who first enrolled in college six years ago this fall.

“It has definitely been an interesting journey,” he said after working out in front of NBA coaches, general managers and scouts in a gym not too far from Chicago’s United Center. “I couldn’t have planned the way it has gone if I wanted to. I’ve been through a lot, but I feel like I’m prepared at this point now.

“I definitely didn’t have the ideal route to get here as many people would have wanted. But I’m just fortunate and lucky to be here, and I’m going to make the best of the opportunity.”

At age 24, he is more than five years older than potential No. 1 overall pick Nerlens Noel, a 6-11 freshman center from Kentucky.

He also is, he says, older and wiser after a collegiate career in which he sat out a season while reaching a plea agreement on a felony assault charge for punching a woman in the face in Miami and played just seven games two seasons ago after tearing his anterior-cruciate knee ligament.

He calls himself a healthy man both in body and spirit, and said he is ready to tell teams so in probing interviews that are part of the draft process.

“There are some off-court issues,” said Mbakwe, who started his career at Marquette, ended it at Minnesota and violated a restraining order in 2011 and was arrested for drunken driving in 2012 in between. “I know that’s something I’m going to have to deal with for the next month and a half. But I’m prepared and I’m ready to answer those questions.”

He also says he is ready to answer questions about his age and his potential in a league in which scouts drool over youngsters’ “upside.”

“It could play a negative factor, but just maturity-wise, I know my role and I know what I can do to the help a team win,” Mbakwe said. “I’m one of the older guys here. I think my age can definitely be a positive.”

He points to Michigan State’s Draymond Green, a second-round draft pick last summer who played four college seasons and now has helped Golden State reach the NBA playoffs’ second round.

“Some people said, ‘Not a big upside,’ but he’s making a great contribution at Golden State,” Mbakwe said.

Listed at 6-8, 240 pounds, Mbakwe is small by NBA power-forward standards and too bulky to chase small forwards all over the court.

He clicks off a list of players — Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Utah’s Paul Millsap, Golden State’s Carl Landry, Brooklyn’s Reggie Evans, San Antonio’s DeJuan Blair — who succeed in the NBA despite being termed undersized.

“I don’t think it’s as big an issue as people make it,” he said. “So many guys who have had success at the next level aren’t your typical 6-9, 6-10 big guys, but they do things exceptionally well. Faried is one of those guys, but I love the way he plays: He plays with so much energy. He’s athletic. He’s one of the players I model myself around. He’s the same size, same build as me and I think I can do a lot of the same things he does.

“They say one thing that translates from college to pros is the ability to rebound, and I feel like that’s something I do pretty well.”

Once projected earlier in his college career as a first-round pick, Mbakwe now — like Green, Millsap, Landry and Blair before him — likely is a second-round pick who hopes to find his way in the NBA because of his willingness to do the little, underappreciated things that others too often avoid.

“Play with energy, rebound the ball pretty well, pretty good defender, block shots,” he said, delivering a scouting report on himself. “I’m not one of those guys who has to have the ball in his hands to have an impact on the game. I pride myself on my ability to rebound the ball and defend. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m here today. I’m just thankful I finally have a chance to live my dream.”

 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close