Trevor Mbakwe granted 6th year of college eligibility, bolstering Gophers' hoops hopes
|Mbakwe's return should make the Gophers favorities to make the NCAA tournament next year.|
Okay, that's an exaggeration, but dude really has been in college forever -- he played his first Division 1 game all the back in the fall of 2007, back before many Americans even knew who Barack Obama was.
Last night, according to multiple reports, the NCAA granted Mbakwe a rare sixth year of college eligibility, meaning the Gophers' most productive player each of the two years will get one last shot at leading the U of M back to the NCAA tournament in 2012-13.
Mbakwe, 23, was averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds per game this season before blowing out his knee in a late November game. With their best player out, the Gophers once-promising season went down the tubes, prompting some to call for the firing of once-revered coach Tubby Smith as another disappointing regular season drew to a close early this month. (It should be mentioned, though, that the Gophers have put together an impressive run through the second-rate NIT tournament, where they play Washington in the semifinals next Tuesday in New York.)
The NCAA often grants injury exceptions to players who suffer season-ending injuries early during the season, as was the case with Mbakwe. And if the 6'8" forward accepts the NCAA's offer, suddenly the short-term future looks much brighter for Tubby and the Gophs.
ESPN notes that with Mbakwe, the Gophers would return their entire team next year, minus disappointing senior Ralph Sampson III. Having Mbakwe to join Rodney Williams, Julian Welch and Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins would reunite the Gophers top five scorers from this year next season.
Mbakwe has already completed an undergraduate degree in Parks and Recreation (not kidding) and is currently taking graduate school classes. He'll soon have five years of college under his belt, meaning that if he's unlucky enough to suffer another serious injury early next season, he could end up with a PhD before his collegiate basketball career is through.