- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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The good news for Minnesota fans? That big year you were expecting from forward Trevor Mbakwe appears to be right on schedule.
Granted, this line came courtesy of an exhibition game vs. Division II Augustana (hello, Quad-Cities!), but on Tuesday night Mbakwe scored 22 points (including 12-of-13 from the free throw line), grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked six shots. That's not quite to "Jeff Wilthey" levels, but it's an awfully good night all the same.
The bad news? The rest of the Gophers seem to be lagging behind. From Minneapolis Star-Tribune beat reporter Amelia Rayno:
His running mates, senior Ralph Sampson III and junior Rodney Williams, have not stepped up in the same way. Williams scored ten points in each game but was a non-factor at times. Sampson had 15 points against Bemidji State but got pushed around in the Augustana game and committed seven turnovers. [...] Mbakwe and the rest of the team have remained very upbeat through two less-than-perfect exhibitions. Monday, Mbakwe was once again praising the team’s potential, saying the “sky is the limit,” with Williams echoing the sentiment.
As Rayno writes, Mbakwe can turn in a career, All-American-worthy year, but if he doesn't get help from Sampson III or Williams -- or one of Tubby Smith's new guards, like, say, the speedy Chip Armelin -- the Gophers might be doomed to a slightly-improved-but-still-disappointing season. Mbakwe has the chance to be brilliant. His sheer interior scoring, athleticism, defense and leadership can lift a team on any given night. He really is that good. But over the course of a season, he can't do it alone.