Back on July 1, Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe was arrested for a DWI charge. Mbakwe later plead guilty to the charges on Sep. 10.
Following the legal issues, Golden Gophers’ head coach Tubby Smith said that he nearly dismissed Mbakwe, who is entering his sixth year of eligibility, off the team. Smith decided to keep the star forward and handle the situation “internally” over the summer.
“It’s something that happened earlier in summertime. Coach has been well aware of it, and it’s something we’re handling internally,” Mbakwe told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
After tearing his ACL last November, Mbakwe sat out most of last season, earning that sixth year of eligibility after a waiver was granted by the NCAA.
Even with the recent arrest, this is not Mbakwe’s first run-in with the law. The 6-foot-8 forward missed the entire 2009-10 season while awaiting trial on felony assault charges in Miami. The case never stemmed further however, and Mbakwe got back on with his playing career.
That career began at Marquette, but following one season in which Mbakwe averaged only 9.2 minutes per game, he transferred. In two seasons at Minnesota, Mbakwe has molded himself into a double-double machine and all-conference performer.
With an up-and-down past, Mbakwe is set to make his final season at the collegiate level his best. The forward was named a Rant Sports‘ third-team preseason All-American earlier this week.
Entering the year however, Mbakwe will come off the bench, despite being heralded as the team’s star player. “We talked about it and I’m going to come off the bench,” Mbakwe told CBSSports.com. “I’m just happy to be playing basketball again. As long as we’re winning and I’m able to come back and play to the level I was accustomed to before the injury, I don’t care if I’m starting or coming off the bench. It doesn’t matter to me.”
The Golden Gophers return nearly all their contributors from a season ago, including athletic forward Rodney Williams. If Mbakwe can relay his recovery process back to the on-the-court success he has become so known for, then Minnesota should have an excellent chance at competing within the upper half of the Big Ten Conference.
The Gophers open up the season on Nov. 9, hosting American from Williams Arena.
Be sure to follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @TheArenaPulse