U's Mbakwe eager to return

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2012 - 9:46 PM

The Gophers power forward, with his knee injury nearly rehabilitated, expects to be fully practicing in September.

hide

Trevor Mbakwe (32) said he felt a little regret while watching the NBA draft, but now he knows returning to the Gophers was the right choice. “I wouldn’t have been ready to play to prepare for the draft or anything,” he said. “I’m looking forward to … being able to play with these guys.”

Photo: Tom Olmscheid, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Trevor Mbakwe stood up and smacked his hands together. "Block him out, Rodney!" he shouted at Gophers basketball teammate Rodney Williams. "Get that one!"

Mbakwe clapped for summer league players wearing faded blue Howard Pulley Pro City league jerseys instead of maroon and gold. Otherwise, the scene was something Gophers fans grudgingly got used to last season, after Mbakwe tore his right ACL in November.

"I became a top-of-the-top, first-class cheerleader these last nine months, so add that to my rsum," Mbakwe said, grinning. "It was fun watching Rodney [Williams] and those guys, they feel like my brothers. ... But hopefully I won't spend too much time on the bench in the future."

Mbakwe can joke now. After the game Thursday, Mbakwe -- who has not been made available to the media since announcing in mid-April that he had accepted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA -- talked about his rehabilitation, his decision to come back and how he thinks the Gophers will fare this season.

•On his injury: Mbakwe said he is in the final stage of a rehab process that started with a December surgery. Right now, he is able to do "pretty much everything," he said, including cutting, jumping, pivoting and running. Right now, he's playing at "medium contact" and is little bit ahead of schedule, according to his trainer. "We've been pretty smart about it the last few months," said Mbakwe, who is aiming to be back on the court when school starts in early September.

"Obviously, I kind of want to push it some, but we would just do as much as we could and then react to how my knee was feeling the next day," Mbakwe said. "If it was feeling pretty good and not sore, we'd kind of ramp it up a little."

The next steps are to continue heavy conditioning, progress to full contact and to master lateral movements -- the area that still gives him a little bit of trouble. Overall, putting full confidence in the knee again is the biggest challenge, something Mbakwe is gaining.

•On his decision to play a sixth year: When Mbakwe watched the NBA draft in late June, he said he felt a twinge of regret. "It was hard ... wishing that was me," he said, "after working so hard last summer and getting into a position where I could get myself in the draft." But now he knows returning to the Gophers was the right thing to do, he said. After discussing his options with coach Tubby Smith and his family, Mbakwe decided he wanted to give the team another season.

"Just being in this spot now, I wouldn't have been ready to play to prepare for the draft or anything," Mbakwe said. "I'm looking forward to the season, being able to play with these guys, actually, for a full year."

•On this year's team, and where he fits in: "I don't know if it's going to change as drastically as some people might think," Mbakwe said. Many of the things the Gophers found to be successful late last season should carry over, he said. The team still wants to run. Williams will probably still play some power forward.

"There will probably be times when I'll have to play [center] and times when I'll play [power forward] -- a lot of our positions are interchangeable in Coach Smith's system," he said. "I was always the type, I like to get up and down, I was never a jogger. ... Once I get back to my old self, I'll be able to sprint. That was one of my advantages, being at [power forward]. I was able to beat my man down the court a lot of times."

And, Mbakwe said, he believes the team would be very good even without him.

"People say they only think of me, but I'm just the backbone," he said. "Rodney and [guard] Andre Hollins, we only go as far as those guys take us."

  • related content

  • Tubby Smith's new deal has new details

    Friday August 3, 2012

    Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith will get a small boost in supplemental income, and his buyout increased to $2.5 million.

  • GOPHERS BASKETBALL

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close