- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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This summer, Trevor Mbakwe was arrested for driving while intoxicated. In September -- as Minnesota coach Tubby Smith revealed at the Gophers' media day last week -- Mbakwe pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of probation and community service. As our own Myron Medcalf reported, Smith considered dismissing Mbakwe before deciding to give him one last chance and punishing him "internally," whatever that means.
As it turns out, that is hardly the end of the story.
In fact, Mbakwe is still on probation in Florida, the remnants of a plea agreement forged after a felony assault charge from 2009. Even worse, though Mbakwe had originally been sentenced to work through a pre-trial diversion program, he was bounced from the program in January 2011, when an ex-girlfriend reported a Facebook message Mbakwe posted on her wall -- in violation of a restraining order. That seemed sort of silly at the time. It does not seem so silly now. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Amelia Rayno:
“He’s on his third bite of the apple down here,” Miami Dade State Attorney’s Office spokesperson Terry Chavez said. “The pretrial diversion program that he originally got is usually given to first-time offenders, which he originally was,” Chavez said. “Basically, it’s like a chance to redeem yourself and start all over.” Mbakwe lost that opportunity with his next arrest. After he was kicked out of the diversion program, he pled guilty in February of this year and received one year of administrative probation.
In short, Mbakwe will return to court Friday, where he could receive either an extension of his probation or jail time. Which is, needless to say, not the kind of thing Minnesota fans will want to hear.
It would also be somewhat sad for Mbakwe, a seemingly nice guy and leader on his team who also continually makes really, really bad decisions.
It was a habit he had seemed to kick after 2009. The Facebook/ex-girlfriend mess was, well, a mess, but the explanation seemed simple enough, even if the decision was poorly conceived. Driving drunk is obviously another matter. When you're on probation for felony assault, you get a friend to come pick you up. Or you don't go out in the first place. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot better: Just don't go out of the house! Stay in. Order a pizza. Rent a movie. Play some online 2K13. Invite friends over. Do your thing there. But whatever you do, do not drive drunk.
Fortunately for Mbakwe, nothing is decided yet. There is a chance his probation will merely be extended. We'll see what the judge decides Friday. Hopefully, he's already learned his lesson. But this wouldn't be the first time -- or even the second -- that this hope will prove too optimistic.