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Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: March 23, 12:07 PM ET
Trevor Mbakwe given sixth year

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

Minnesota has reached this year's NIT semifinals, but the Golden Gophers took a major step toward the reaching the NCAA tournament in 2013 when the NCAA on Thursday granted 6-foot-8 forward Trevor Mbakwe a sixth year of eligibility.

The Minnesota staff confirmed to ESPN.com an earlier WCCO-TV report that Mbakwe received medical clearance from the NCAA to compete again next season.

The school announced the decision Friday.

Mbakwe has not decided if he will accept the sixth season. In a post on his Twitter account, he thanked everyone for their support and says he's "really happy about the NCAA decision to give me the option of having another year."

Mbakwe, considered one of the top forwards in the country, tore his right ACL in the Old Spice Classic title game loss to Dayton on Nov. 27. Mbakwe played in only seven games this season, averaging a team-high 14 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

A healthy Mbakwe probably would have kept the Gophers in contention for an NCAA bid this season.

Minnesota finished 6-12 in the Big Ten but lost a number of close games, including in overtime at Illinois, to Wisconsin and Michigan, which could have left the Gophers at 9-9 at the very least in the Big Ten.

The Gophers have rallied in the NIT, winning three road games at La Salle, Miami and Middle Tennessee.

Minnesota plays Washington Tuesday in New York.

With Mbakwe, the Gophers would return their entire team except for senior Ralph Sampson III. Having Mbakwe to join Rodney Williams, Julian Welch and Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins would give the Gophers their top five scorers back for next season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.