Mbakwe's season, and likely Gophers career, over after injury

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 29, 2011 - 6:46 AM

The All-Big Ten forward won't play again this season, and it's likely that his Gophers career is over as well.

hide

Trevor Mbakwe

Photo: Tom Olmscheid, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Trevor Mbakwe's body language Sunday night signaled doom. So did the looks on the faces of his coaches and teammates. But everyone associated with the Gophers men's basketball team still held out hope that the results of Monday's magnetic resonance imaging exam on Mbakwe's injured right knee would bring something other than bad news.

As has been the case in so many seasons under coach Tubby Smith, however, there was no such luck.

The MRI confirmed everyone's worst fear: Mbakwe -- the Gophers' top player, main energy source and chief reason to believe an NCAA tournament berth was possible -- suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament while battling for a rebound Sunday against Dayton. The fifth-year senior's season is over, and likely his career with the Gophers is as well. He will undergo surgery, likely in late December after swelling in the knee subsides.

"We are certainly going to miss him. He's having a great year. He's our leader. He's been a big emotional leader for us," Smith said in a statement. "Our players look up to Trevor, not just because of his talent, but because of his work ethic, and the type of person he's been."

In a statement, Mbakwe said: "My family and I would like to thank everyone for their support." Later on Twitter, he wrote: "I'm so lucky to have all the support I've been getting. It doesn't feel real yet but I'll get better and rehab like crazy. I love all of u and thanks so much."

College athletes can seek a sixth year of eligibility under special circumstances -- Gophers football player Kim Royston was granted a sixth year -- but there are no guarantees the NCAA would give it to Mbakwe. Smith said on his radio program on 1500 ESPN Monday that it's "something we're checking on now ... to figure out if that is an option." Mbakwe -- who turns 23 in January and who flirted with entering the NBA draft in the offseason before returning to the Gophers -- might be eager to test his pro prospects after he recovers, regardless of his eligibility. He is slated to graduate in December.

The 6-8 forward landed awkwardly while battling for a rebound early in the second half of the Gophers' 86-70 loss to Dayton in the Old Spice Classic title game in Orlando. Mbakwe's right knee appeared to buckle and he was down on the court for several minutes before being helped off.

Mbakwe is averaging 14.0 points and 9.1 rebounds a game, tops in both categories for the Gophers (6-1). He was a preseason All-Big Ten pick and a preseason Lute Olson All-America, among other early accolades.

Teammates and foes took to Twitter on Monday to wish Mbakwe well. Gophers center and fellow co-captain Ralph Sampson III -- in what appeared to be his first tweet ever on the account @RalphSampson3 -- said, "Hoping my teammate, Trevor, makes a healthy recovery." Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor, like Mbakwe a former Minnesota prep standout, tweeted: "Prayin for a speedy recovery for my guy @TMbakwe32."

Mbakwe's injury is another blow to a program beset in recent years by injuries, transfers and other off-court problems. Without Mbakwe, the Gophers' prospects of being an NCAA tournament-caliber team are significantly dimmer, and the roster has a sizable void when it comes to big men. Mo Walker is still out after his knee injury suffered last December, Sampson has been hobbled by a sprained ankle and Colton Iverson transferred after last season.

Smith said others, including Rodney Williams, will have to step up. On his radio program, Smith said Williams could move from small forward to power forward, with Julian Welch, a combo guard, shifting into the starting lineup Wednesday against Virginia Tech. Junior college transfer Andre Ingram, averaging 2.0 points in just under 8 minutes per game, could see more minutes. Redshirt freshman Elliott Eliason has also played quality minutes in recent games.

If this is the end for Mbakwe, it will be the capper on a college career filled with challenges. He missed most of his freshman season at Marquette because of a left knee injury before transferring to Miami Dade Community College. From there, he came to the Gophers but redshirted in 2009-10 while sitting out with legal troubles. Mbakwe emerged as a force for the Gophers last season and led the Big Ten in rebounding at 10.5 per game.

"The team has watched what he's had to deal with and overcome, and I think that endears you -- me, too -- to a person like him," Smith said. "He knows that we're here for him, and we will do whatever we can do to help him through this process ... Trevor's done everything we've asked him to do in his time here at the University of Minnesota. He's been through an awful lot. That says a lot about his toughness to be able to recover from the things he has already endured."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 6:00 PM
Cleveland
Phoenix 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Dallas 6:30 PM
Detroit
Utah 6:30 PM
Miami
Orlando 6:30 PM
Boston
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Toronto
Memphis 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Portland
Houston 9:30 PM
Denver
Indiana 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Boston 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 3:00 PM
St Francis-NY
James Madison 6:00 PM
Ball State
SIU Edwardsville 6:00 PM
Campbell
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
Florida State
Catawba 6:00 PM
George Mason
Ferrum 6:00 PM
High Point
Hampton 6:00 PM
Illinois
Gardner-Webb 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
Longwood 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Miss State
Tennessee 6:00 PM
NC State
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Ohio State
Manhattan 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Robert Morris 6:00 PM
Toledo
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Wofford
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Barber-Scotia 6:00 PM
NC Central
Detroit 6:30 PM
UCF
Liberty 6:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
TX A&M-CC 7:00 PM
Denver
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
Houston
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Milligan 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
USC Upstate 7:00 PM
Memphis
Alcorn State 7:00 PM
Murray State
Central Mich 7:00 PM
Northwestern
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
TX-Pan American 7:00 PM
Saint Louis
Ill-Chicago 7:00 PM
SMU
Texas State 7:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
SC State 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Chicago State 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Winthrop 8:00 PM
Auburn
New Mexico St 8:00 PM
Baylor
San Diego St 8:00 PM
Cincinnati
Eastern Mich 8:00 PM
Michigan State
Loyola Marymount 8:00 PM
Stanford
Incarnate Word 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Northeastern 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Central Arkansas 9:00 PM
New Mexico
Howard 9:00 PM
Pepperdine
Portland 9:30 PM
UNLV
CS-Northridge 10:00 PM
Oregon
Grambling St 10:00 PM
Washington
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 39 2nd Half
Campbell 24
Akron 3:30 PM
UCF
Richmond 3:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Montana 4:00 PM
Seattle
(7) Stanford 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Florida A&M 5:30 PM
Southern U
Oklahoma 5:30 PM
(13) Duke
Savannah State 5:30 PM
Auburn
Northern Colorado 6:00 PM
South Florida
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
Siena 6:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Vermont 6:00 PM
St Francis-NY
(1) South Carolina 6:00 PM
Hampton
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Texas Southern 6:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Northwestern 6:00 PM
UNLV
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Appalachian St
NC Central 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Drexel 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Cincinnati 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Alabama State 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Morehead St 6:00 PM
USC Upstate
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Kent State
American Univ 6:00 PM
Manhattan
UNC Greensboro 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Arkansas-Monticello 6:30 PM
Northwestern St
Prairie View 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
McNeese State 7:00 PM
(3) Texas
Yale 7:00 PM
Wagner
Oakland 7:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Eastern Kentucky 7:00 PM
Alabama A&M
SIU-Edwardsville 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
McMurry 7:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Portland 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
North Texas 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close