A couple weeks ago Minnesota received the good news from the NCAA that forward Trevor Mbakwe would be granted a sixth year of eligibility after a knee injury in November ended his 2011-12 season.
Now comes the hard part: finding a scholarship for Mbakwe, who is likely the difference between a sure NCAA bid and a fight on the bubble in 2012-13.
Minnesota sent a letter to the NCAA requesting an additional scholarship for Mbakwe, and head coach Tubby Smith said that he hopes to hear back from them within a week.
During his press conference at Williams Arena on Thursday, Smith said that he doesn’t want to be forced into the position of having to pull a scholarship from someone in order to make room for Mbakwe.
“I would never run a player off,” said Smith. “But usually through attrition, usually through something, somebody decides that this is it.”
He’s yet to have individual meetings with his players, so there’s still the chance that a player unhappy with his situation could decide to move on and open up a scholarship that way.
Mbakwe still has the option to move on but according to Smith the possible sixth-year senior wants to return in 2012-13.
“That was the conversation we just had yesterday,” Smith said. “I think he’s gearing up to being back and going through rehab and all of those things.
“But again, it could change. He has a lot of people he’s probably consulting with. We did what we’re supposed to do. We went out there to make sure he has that option.”
Being granted the extra season for Mbakwe was definitely a positive for Minnesota, but making sure they have room for him scholarship-wise has proven to be easier said than done thus far.