Trevor Mbakwe’s sixth season of eligibility was a done deal in mid-March, but he finally made his return to Tubby Smith’s team official on Monday.
The Gophers’ power forward and best player announced that he’ll play during the 2012-13 season, likely elevating Minnesota to a top 25 team and giving the 6-8 rebounding machine a chance to bolster his status among NBA scouts. He had been considering a jump to the pros, but elected for another college season instead.
He announced the deed via YouTube, but those disinclined to watch video, here’s the standard statement:
“I have decided to remain at the University of Minnesota and am looking forward to the upcoming season,” Mbakwe said. “I think it is beneficial for many reasons. It gives me the opportunity to play another year of college basketball and hopefully contribute to a team that showed it can be dangerous. It also provides me with the opportunity to leave the university with a Master’s degree. That means a ton to me. Not many athletes have that chance to get multiple degrees during their stay and unfortunately it took an injury for me to have this opportunity but I am going to take full advantage of it.”
Mbakwe, who started his career at Marquette transferred to a Florida junior college before settling at Minnesota, tore his ACL on Nov. 27 and missed most of the season. He averaged 14.0 points and 9.1 rebounds in seven games. (Sophomore Chip Armelin had to transfer to ensure Mbakwe would have a scholarship, though.)
His return gives the Gophers (23-15) nearly every crucial player back from this year’s team that lost to Stanford in the NIT final.
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Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.
The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.
Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.
With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.
“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”
Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.
While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.