MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Gopher’s basketball forward Trevor Mbakwe will be out for the season after suffering a tear to his ACL during a game Sunday night.
In a released statement, University of Minnesota medical director Dr. Brad Nelson confirmed earlier reports from WCCO’s Mike Max that Mbakwe will have surgery in a few weeks to repair the torn ACL to his right knee.
“My family and I would like to thank everyone for their support,” Mbakwe said in the statement.
Mbakwe left the Old Spice Classic championship game against Dayton after he appeared to land awkwardly on his leg while battling for a rebound. He stayed down on for several minutes afterward while being attended to by trainers. When he got to his feet he avoided putting any pressure on the leg as he was helped off the floor.
Mbakwe later returned to bench with an ice pack over his right shin and knee. He left the arena on crutches.
“Trevor’s done everything we’ve asked him to do in his time here at the University of Minnesota. He’s been through an awful lot,” said Gopher head coach Tubby Smith in a released statement. “That says a lot about his toughness to be able to recover from the things he has already endured.”
Smith said Mbakwe suffered a knee injury once before when he played for Marquette.
“For it to happen a second time, you hurt for him, but you know he’s a guy that has the will power and has been through it before and can recover again,” said Smith. “We are certainly going to miss him. He’s having a great year. He’s our leader. He’s been a big emotional leader for us. Our players look up to Trevor, not just because of his talent, but because of his work ethic, and the type of person he’s been.”
The 6-foot-8 forward came into Sunday’s game averaging a team-high 14.8 points and 10 rebounds. Mbakwe was named to the Preseason All-Big Ten First Team and to the John R. Wooden award watch list.
This is the latest in what has been a long line of stunning setbacks for Smith and the Gophers the last three years.
Last January, junior guard Devoe Joseph decided to transfer to Oregon after he was suspended for academic issues among unspecified violations of team rules. Senior guard Al Nolen broke his foot later that month and didn’t play again, the year after he was suspended for the second semester for falling behind in class. Prized recruit Royce White, now at Iowa State, left the program two years ago after legal trouble kept him off the court.
But none of those losses hit the team as hard as Mbakwe’s injury likely will.
The other frontcourt starters, 6-foot-11 senior Ralph Sampson and 6-foot-7 junior Rodney Williams, have been inconsistent and not tough around the basket like Mbakwe. Sophomore Maurice Walker, who is 6-foot-10 and 289 pounds, hasn’t played yet this season, still recovering from knee surgery that ended his freshman year early. That leaves freshman Elliott Eliason and junior Andre Ingram to fill in.
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