MINNEAPOLIS — Senior forward Trevor Mbakwe is lucky to still be on the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team, coach Tubby Smith said Friday.
Mbakwe was arrested on a DWI charge July 1 and pleaded guilty at a hearing Sept. 10. News of Mbakwe’s latest run-in with the law surfaced just as he and the Gophers prepared for their media day to start the 2012-13 season.
“It’s something that happened earlier in the summer time. Coach has been well aware of it,” Mbakwe said Friday. “It’s something we’re handling internally as a team. At this time, I have nothing else to say about that.”
According to court records, Mbakwe was sentenced to 30 days in a Hennepin County workhouse, with two days served and 28 days stayed. He was also given 16 hours of community service and a one-year supervised probation, as well as a fine for $300.
It was the latest legal snafu for the 23-year-old Mbakwe. He was charged with felony assault in Miami in 2009 after transferring from Marquette University to Miami Dade Community College. He later pleaded guilty to violating a restraining order in 2011 when he contacted an ex-girlfriend via a Facebook message.
Mbakwe missed all but seven games in 2011-12 after tearing his ACL in the Gophers’ game against Dayton. During his junior year, he led the Big Ten in rebounding with 10.5 boards per game and also averaged 13.9 points.
On Friday, Mbakwe said he is fully recovered from his knee surgery and is expected to be a key to the Gophers again this season. He weighed his options of returning for a sixth year of eligibility or turning pro, but he ultimately decided to come back to Minnesota for one more season.
The latest legal issues may temporarily complicate things, however.
“I know he made a mistake. We had come this far with him. He had a serious injury,” Smith said. “One of the things I think Trevor has is a possibility of having a livelihood in this profession and playing basketball. I want to make sure we gave him every opportunity, as long as he does the things that we expect and require him to do.”
Smith said Friday that Mbakwe still hasn’t done everything necessary to rejoin the team after his latest arrest. Mbakwe was suspended from team activities immediately after his DWI in July.
“He’s back working out with the team and doing the things we’ve asked him to do, but he’s got to finish up some of the requirements, so that’s No. 1,” Smith said. “… He played seven games last year, so he’s got a lot to do to prove that he’s going to be able to contribute.”