This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Smith: Mbakwe could start as soon as tomorrow

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: December 21, 2012 - 6:21 PM

The change that Gophers fans have been anticipating since the beginning of the season could actually happen as soon as Saturday.

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith alluded in Friday’s media access that he could be inserting star forward Trevor Mbakwe into the starting lineup in the near future, possibly tomorrow vs. Lafayette.

“Obviously you’re getting a better athlete in the lineup and you want to play with your best people on the court,” Smith said of the still-hypothetical move. “We know how good Trevor is … it’s a balancing act about how guys respond, how does Elliott respond to coming off the bench, how does Trevor respond to being in the starting lineup. It’s a wait-and-see thing -- if it happens.”

If the move does happen, it wouldn’t be related to Mbakwe’s health and Smith finally trusting his star’s repaired knee, he said.

“I’m comfortable with his knee,” Smith said. “It’s a team. It’s not individuals, it’s a team. So I’ve got to worry about how everyone responds and is that the best team on the floor at the time. It may be the best athletes, but is it the best team.”

Mbakwe has come off the bench for the Gophers since the start of the season after missing most of last year with a torn ACL. Recently, though, Smith has played the sixth-year senior increased minutes with the starting group, and given the opportunity, Mbakwe has excelled. In the team’s last outing, vs. North Dakota State, the reserve exploded for 14 points and 18 rebounds in 21 minutes.

“He hasn’t talked to me directly about it, but yeah, he’s been working me out with our starting five pretty often,” Mbakwe said. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and if it happens, it happens, if not I’ve just got to keep playing the way I’ve been playing.”

After the game against Lafayette, the Gophers start conference play, opening that part of the schedule with a home game vs. Michigan State on New Years’ Eve. Starting Mbakwe Saturday would be a good transition move so that the team isn’t experiencing against the increased competition of the league. But if that’s the way it happens, Rodney Williams is confident Mbakwe will be fine.

“I don’t think he needs a game,” Williams said. “I know Trevor. Trevor would be ready if coach would start him in the Big Ten, without getting any starts until then. Trevor is a guy that comes in with energy whatever point of the game he comes in, so I’m not too worried about how many starts he gets before the Big Ten.”

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago WSox - WP: R. Belisario 7 FINAL
Detroit - LP: J. Soria 4
Colorado - LP: P. Hernandez 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 3
St. Louis - WP: S. Miller 6 FINAL
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 2
Philadelphia 7 Bottom 7th Inning
Washington 4
LA Angels 0 Top 9th Inning
Baltimore 0
Seattle 4 Bottom 7th Inning
Cleveland 5
Cincinnati 3 FINAL
Miami 1
Minnesota 2 Bottom 6th Inning
Kansas City 2
Toronto 4 Bottom 6th Inning
Houston 4
Pittsburgh 0 Top 2nd Inning
Arizona 0
Atlanta - J. Teheran 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw
NY Giants 8/3/14 7:00 PM
Buffalo
Winnipeg 20 0:21
Hamilton 26
Toronto 8/1/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Brt Columbia 8/1/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Saskatchewan 8/2/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/7/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Edmonton 8/8/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Hamilton 8/8/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/9/14 6:30 PM
Calgary
Atlanta 78 4th Qtr 0:39
Tulsa 73
Phoenix 67 4th Qtr 1:00
Minnesota 71
New York 74 4th Qtr 0:18
Chicago 85
Indiana 9:00 PM
Seattle
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: Which upcoming event are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT