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

Mbakwe needs to be the leader if this team is to be successful ... and he knows it

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: March 13, 2013 - 3:10 PM

 

 

Trevor Mbakwe’s attitude after Gophers practice today was refreshing.

He took ownership. He accepted responsibility. He talked about playing harder, and better, starting with him.

He sounded like a leader.

“I have to play better,” he said. “It’s been inconsistent with me this year and these last couple weeks. I’ve been trying to be more aggressive. … We have to take it to a whole [new] level and it starts with me personally.”

It was refreshing because for most of the season, we’ve heard the Gophers talk about depth and balance. We’ve heard them say they don’t have a go-to guy – because it could be anyone – and that their plan is to feed whoever’s hot.

But the “Team of Equals” theme has left the Gophers as a struggling team with no one on the hook. Yes, they all need to produce and contribute. But they also need an inspiration, someone to call them out individually, someone to set a tone of dissatisfaction.

And in their moments of collapse, in their apparent panic, in their highs and lows -- both on the court and off -- leadership has been a big problem.

Heck, their inability to lead themselves has gotten their coach acting like he got stuck with the group of middle schoolers in a high school tournament.

Asked whether he wants to see the team find a leader, find the guy who will take responsibility and step up, Tubby Smith responded:

“We don’t have that one guy. We’ve been looking for him, but we don’t have that one guy. That’s why it has to be a total team effort. If we did, trust me, we’d be using that one guy. If I had a Carmelo Anthony or if I had somebody like Trey Burke, if we had somebody like that. We’ve tried in many different ways. Andre Hollins is probably the one that will give us the most versatility, but that’s about it.”

But whether Smith wants to say it, it does start with Mbakwe. He can’t be the only one, but he can be the intense, consistent, experienced presence.

The sixth-year senior seems to have hit a new stride in the last few weeks, contributing 49 points and 31 rebounds in the previous three games leading up to the finale at Purdue before getting six and 10, respectively, in that game.

“I didn’t play well at Purdue and we lost, and I have to play better if we want to win games,” Mbakwe said. “Everybody has to play at that level, but I hold myself accountable.”

That’s just the attitude the Gophers need heading into the postseason.

Other quick notes from today’s coach and player availability:

  • Asked whether Smith planned to switch up the lineup at all (perhaps starting Maverick Ahanmisi or Julian Welch at point with Joe Coleman off the bench, as the Gophers have used in in-game situations recently), Smith indicated he would stand pat. “We’ve tried a lot of different weapons. We’ve played everybody in every game just about, so they’ve had plenty of opportunties. We’ve just got to find the right button to push in the game. Starting, in my opinion, is not a big deal, the big deal is who’s performing at the clutch time, crunch time when we need them to perform.”
  • Regarding Rodney Williams, and what the key to unlocking the senior’s potential might be, Smith said: “I’ve been trying for four years. I think it’s just staying focused, just playing as hard as he can play, every minute and every second on the court. Not taking any time off, just every possession’s got to be all out. I think that’s it. We always tell guys, you can just play harder – that’s the key, just play as hard as you can play.”
  • Smith said he’s trying to keep any pressure off this team as they head into the Big Ten tournament, stating that the Gophers have “had trouble responding to pressure. … There are a lot of different ways to approach it, as far as what we say about ‘now or never.’ We try to say, Look, it’s another opportunity for us. It’s a chance for us to improve and get better and that’s about the way I approach it. “
  • When it comes to his two seniors (Mbakwe and Williams) that have been at Minnesota and in major roles the longest, Smith said the pair will need to overachieve if the team is to have success. “I’d like to see it,” he said. “I think they’re trying. I think they’re giving us their best effort. It is what it is. I don’t think they haven’t tried to play better. It’s just – we all have limitations. And at this point in time, you’ve got to overachieve. And if they’re willing to overachieve, we’ll have a good run.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas - WP: N. Martinez 7 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 2
Boston - LP: B. Workman 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: G. Cole 3
Toronto - LP: A. Sanchez 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 3
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Hand 2
Los Angeles - WP: P. Rodriguez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: N. Ramirez 4
Cleveland - WP: K. Crockett 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: S. Deduno 1
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Freeman 3
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 6 FINAL
Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins 7
Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick 3 FINAL
San Diego - WP: R. Erlin 7
Seattle - WP: T. Wilhelmsen 3 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: K. Jepsen 1
Tampa Bay 14 FINAL
Atlanta 56
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
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 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
Toronto 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 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