Mbakwe feeling like his former self

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 27, 2012 - 2:31 PM

Nearly recovered from ACL surgery, Gophers sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe is showing glimpses of his pre-injury ability.

hide

Forward Trevor Mbakwe (32) has the speed to keep up when the Gophers use a small lineup and the bulk to bang with opposing centers.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. - Trevor Mbakwe sat straight-faced as he was interviewed Saturday after the Gophers' last-second victory over Stanford for fifth place at the Battle 4 Atlantis basketball tournament in the Bahamas.

He had just amassed 19 points and 12 rebounds off the bench -- by far the most productive performance the Gophers have received from him this season and an effort that would have been impressive even last year before the sixth-year senior tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. But when asked about the hustle and intensity with which he played, Mbakwe shrugged.

"That's just the way I have to play to help this team," he said. "Make plays on defense and play with energy. ... I've just got to play hard at all times and take advantage of opportunities when I'm out there."

As the newly ranked No. 21 Gophers head into Tallahassee to face Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday -- and continue to prepare for a grueling Big Ten season -- they will need Mbakwe to be that guy in order to be successful. Coincidentally, Tuesday happens to be the exact one-year anniversary of Mbakwe's injury, which came against Dayton in the title game of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Mbakwe wasn't outwardly thrilled by his performance Saturday because he knows it's simply necessary. But until Saturday, the 6-8, 245-pound forward had been getting inconsistent minutes off the bench and showing only momentary flashes of the explosive player he was before his injury.

"He's showing a lot of stamina," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said of Mbakwe. "He always plays with energy and toughness ... but I've been impressed with how he's gotten better. Just the shooting percentages, his free-throw shooting, things he's done extremely well."

In the Gophers' first game in The Bahamas, a 89-71 loss against No. 5 Duke, Mbakwe had 11 points and three rebounds in 18 minutes. The 11 points were his season high at the time, but he scored only five against Memphis -- when Andre Hollins took over with his career-high 41 points.

With Hollins limited to only eight points against Stanford, Mbakwe took over for the Gophers in a 66-63 victory. Even more so, they need a consistent imposing presence in the paint to battle with 7-foot Florida State big man Kiel Turpin, as well as the intimidating frontcourts scattered across the Big Ten.

"He was impressive," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said of Mbakwe. "I thought he had a presence on the floor. He rebounded well, he scored around the basket. I think he's going to give them the added dimension they were missing last year."

Smith has many more options now than he did a season ago, with a deep frontcourt that includes starters Elliott Eliason and Rodney Williams, with Mbakwe, Andre Ingram and Mo Walker off the bench. And it gives the Gophers the capability of going big and tough -- with Williams at small forward, Mbakwe at power forward and Eliason at center -- or small and fast, with Williams sliding to power forward and Mbakwe or another mobile big man at center.

"I've always believed that the more talented and quality players you have, the more you try to wear the opposing team down and hopefully that will show up at the end of the game as far as your team having more stamina," Smith said. "You have to have other players that can contribute and I think [guys such as] Andre Ingram, Mo Walker, they're giving us inside bulk and that's why we're doing a good job on the boards and rebounding better."

But either way, the Gophers are better -- more intimidating and more skilled -- with a productive Mbakwe in the lineup. He is quick enough to keep up with a team that wants to play an up-tempo offense and pressing defense, yet he is tough enough to battle down low with the best.

And with Mbakwe looking close to 100 percent healthy -- he was diving on the floor and over press row after loose balls Saturday -- he remains the X factor if the Gophers are going to prosper this season.

"I think every game I can kind of tell a difference," Mbakwe said. "I'm able to do more and more."

  • ACC/BIG TEN CHALLENGE GOPHERS AT FLORIDA STATE

    6:15 p.m. tonight • Tallahassee, Fla. • TV: ESPN2 (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent 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.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close