Hartman: Saunders reports Mbakwe stood out

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 20, 2013 - 12:03 PM

The former Gophers forward played and tested well at an NBA draft combine, but his knees remain a concern.

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Trevor Mbakwe

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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According to new Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe performed well at last week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago, which is held for players who have a likelihood of getting selected. Saunders believes Mbakwe’s physical attributes are a big plus for his chances of getting drafted.

“I thought he played really well,” Saunders said. “He measured out; measurement-wise, he’s probably the most impressive player. When I say that, when you look at body fat, you look at his wingspan — he had about a plus-8, which means his wingspan is 8 inches more than his height, which is something a lot of people look at.

“The other thing is his hands. He had the biggest hands of anybody in the camp, when you look at both the length, from the heel of the hand to the top, and the width from the thumb to the pinkie finger. I thought he played really well in the camp. I thought he shot the ball well, showed he can knock down the 15-footers like he did against Indiana. So I thought he was pretty impressive.”

Asked to gauge where the 6-8, 240-pound Mbakwe might go in the June 27 NBA draft, Saunders said: “The thing about that camp is there’s not a lot of competing against each other. There’s a little bit, but not a whole lot. It’s mostly measurements, they do some drills, some shooting drills, they do a little bit of competing but not a whole lot.

“With him, a lot is going to depend on [workouts] and how his physical ends up coming out on his knees. For some people, that’s a huge red flag and can take a player that’s a first-round pick and put them in the second round or take a second-round pick and make them undraftable. Depending on where his knees come out in the physicals will really determine where he comes out in the draft.”

Mbakwe tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in November 2011 and missed the rest of that season before the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility. He also had some knee problems earlier in his college career at Marquette.

He will have a chance to show what he can do in another NBA-sanctioned draft combine in New Jersey this Wednesday and Thursday, which Saunders will attend. Then on May 26-27, Mbakwe plans to be at another NBA-sanctioned combine in Minneapolis.

“We’ll have 24 players come into that, mostly some first-round picks [and] a lot of second-round-type picks,” Saunders said. “Then after that, we’ll wrap it up for us and start zeroing in on some of the guys we’re looking at for that first round.”

Carroll produces

Infielder Jamey Carroll doesn’t often start, but according to Twins General Manager Terry Ryan, Carroll produces when he gets an opportunity to play.

“You can put him at third, short, second, and he usually takes an at-bat where he’s going to put it in play for sure,” Ryan said. “He’s doing a nice job and he’s certainly a role model for all these younger guys around here because he plays the game and works at his craft.”

Ryan said there’s a reason a player such as Caroll is in his 12th year in the majors.

“He knows what he’s doing, he knows his limitations, it’s going to be a little bit of a battle every time he comes to the plate,” Ryan said. “We all know he’s not going to drive a ball over the fence hardly ever, but he takes an at-bat where more often than not, he can square a ball up and he can put it in play and he runs plenty good, too.”

Carroll has appeared in 18 games this season and is hitting .304.

Jennings stands out

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was asked his impression of new wide receiver Greg Jennings in workouts at Winter Park.

“His experience jumps out at you for sure,” Frazier said of the longtime Packers star. “Knowing where we are at the receiving position, having a guy of that caliber, a Pro Bowl player, a great player in our league for many years — his leadership, his experience, his big-play ability, it’s still there. He was banged up a bit the last couple of years but he is healthy now. We are looking forward for him having a great season in Minnesota.”

The Vikings will be young at receiver, with second-year player Jarius Wright and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, so Jennings will surely play a big role in their development.

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