Imagine the Minnesota Gophers this past year or next season without power forward Trevor Mbakwe. Not the prettiest thought is it Gopher fans? As a junior Mbakwe led the team in scoring, rebounding, and field goal percentage plus he was second in blocked shots and minutes played. The sky is the limit for his senior year and the Gophers will count on Trevor heavily.
Where does one begin? I'd say in the area where Trevor performs his best and that's on the glass. Mbakwe led the Big Ten in rebounding with a 10.5 per game average and his 13.7 boards per minutes played was also the conference high (a full board ahead of Jared Sullinger). Trevor's collection of 327 rebounds is the 4th highest single season total in Gopher history and the highest since Jim Brewer's 331 rebounds in 1970-71. Mbakwe joined Kris Humphries, Richard Coffey, and Mychal Thompson as the only Gophers to ever lead the Big Ten in boards.
Scoring wise Trevor led the team with 13.9 points per game shooting 58.2 percent from the floor, which was second to Michigan's Jordan Morgan in the Big Ten. Trevor also made 62.9 percent of his free throws out of an attempted 202 which was also the second highest in the conference. Mbakwe scored a season high 24 points at Iowa and it was one of 27 games where he finished in double figures.
Mbakwe was the first Gopher to average a double-double since Kris Humphries did so in 2003-04. Trevor had 19 double-doubles in all which included a high of 16 boards on three separate occasions. He also was second on the team in minutes and blocked shots.
The Not so Good
Many fans would say Trevor needs to become a better free throw shooter but actually there are a lot of bigs across America who are much worse off than he. Trevor made 63 percent of his free tosses this season giving him a better percentage than Devoe Joseph, Rodney Williams, Colton Iverson, and Chip Armelin from his own team. Of course at 63 percent there is also room for growth especially considering that Trevor shoots an average of 6.5 free throws a contest.
Number wise Trevor will want to improve on his turnovers as he compiled a team high 68 of them this year.
Highlights? Mbakwe had a ferocious highlight dunk or block it seemed on a nightly basis. Trevor had 19 double-doubles as well. And after all the junk he went though the previous season the whole 2010-11 basketball season was a highlight for the team, the fans of Gopher basketball, and most importantly Trevor and his family. His biggest performance was probably the 22 points he scored in the second half against Iowa on February 13th, which was the last win on the season for the Golden Gophers.
Focus on 2011-12
Mbakwe had a great junior season and there is no question about that. If he put up the exact same performance as a senior there would be nothing for Gopher fans to complain about and Trevor would go down in the record books once again. But don't think for a second that Mbakwe isn't motivated right now to get even better. Goals for him will likely include at least a 15 point per game season, almost a dozen rebounds a game, improved free throw shooting, improving his mid-range jumper, and cutting down on turnovers.
Like all basketball players Mbakwe wants to play in the NBA but when you consider that 6-foot-7 225 pound four man Kenneth Faried is being projected as a mid to late first round pick right now it's clear that Trevor has a chance to be drafted in 2012. NBADraft.net has Mbakwe listed as the first pick of the second round in 2012 but considering that Mbakwe has the potential to be better than Faried first round is definitely within Trevor's grasp.
This is something Mbakwe will work for. He's a 22 year old man going on 23 and he has a child to support. When you consider how much his approach to the game has matured in the past couple years one has to believe that Mbakwe will come out even more ferocious, more focused, and more skilled as a senior.
Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson are the top two returning scorers and after that only Rodney Williams is coming back averaging more than four points a game. That state alone shows how important the bigs are to the Gophers next year.
Freshman Andre Hollins and Joe Coleman as well as junior college transfer Julian Welch will be key components immediately next year in terms of scoring production but are any of them ready for consistent double figure scoring production? The answer at first will likely be no so the Gophers are going to lean on the production of Sampson and Mbakwe inside early and often.
Trevor can be a go to guy in the sense that he's a player that should get 15-16 scoring touches a game by way of basket cuts, post ups, and high-low looks. Many of those touches will become free throw attempts. No Trevor nor Sampson are guys who can be traditional late game go to guys who create off the dribble on the perimeter but they will be go to guys in terms of where the offense will put the focus.
What's a good year for Trevor in the Big Ten? I would guess 15-17 points, 11-12 rebounds, a block or two a game, field goal shooting of around 60 percent, free throw shooting around 66-67, and less turnovers than last year.
A goal for him could be the stat line of Keith Faried which in 2010-11 was 17.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks a game with 62 percent field goal shooting. Of course Faried did that in the Ohio Valley Conference playing 35 minutes a game (Trevor played 31 minutes a night) but why shouldn't Trevor shoot for those goals? After last year I wouldn't bet against him.