By Myron Medcalf
What’s up? I’m back.
I’ve been gone for nearly a month now on an extended stay-cation. I took some time off to hang out with family, friends and an assortment of challenging golf courses, while gaining a greater appreciation for stay-at-home parents after a three-week stint at home with my toddler. Wow, she has a ton of energy. How do you do it, full-time moms?
I read your blog comments, criticisms, praises and “Dude, where are you?”emails, but I really wanted to take advantage of my time off – for once – and just chill out for awhile.
But I made time to go to Howard Pulley pro-am games and watch all of the new Gophers basketball players compete. I talked to coaches, parents and players. I scoured the Internet for college basketball info/news, while my 14-month-old daughter attempted to utilize my new laptop as a personal punching bag.
It was a smooth break. But just when I thought everything was calm, news broke last week about a felony assault charge against top recruit Trevor Mbakwe.
Let me just say this: Mbakwe, like any American in any other criminal case, is innocent until proven guilty. That said there’s nothing good about this right now. The buzz surrounding Minnesota basketball hasn’t been this high in years. The fact that the status of the top recruit in the top recruiting class of Tubby Smith’s tenure is in jeopardy at least for the next couple of weeks doesn’t help Gophers supporters focus on the potential positives of the upcoming season.
I don’t know how many of his teammates even knew anything about his situation. I asked Royce White about it last week, and he said he didn’t know Mbakwe was dealing with anything.
Smith didn’t allow Gophers players to do interviews during the final games in the Howard Pulley league late last week.
I’ve spoken with multiple Gophers coaches. They believe that their guy isn’t involved. They’re very hopeful but also realistic about the possibility that things could go the other way, even as they support Mbakwe.
I think we’ll know soon what really happened that night and whether Mbakwe was involved. He has an Aug. 26 court date in Miami. I’ve spoken with multiple people connected to Mbakwe, and I can tell you that there are those who believe he’s 100 percent innocent and those who believe he may be involved. Regardless, it’s up to the justice system now.
But losing Mbakwe would put a huge dent in Minnesota’s potentially stellar lineup, but more importantly, it would seriously damage the young man’s life. In the end, however, he may be completely exonerated.
Here are a few things to note from the police report related to the felony battery charge against Mbakwe:
The assault victim described her assailant as a 6-6, 190-pound black man with a thin build. She suffered a laceration on her left eyelid after the suspect allegedly punched her in the face two times. When officers arrived, she refused to allow them to transport her to a hospital, choosing instead to go on her own. The police report lists her injuries as minor. (We know, however, that the woman suffered a ruptured sinus and fractured cheekbone.)
In other Gophers news:
-Based on the team’s incoming and returning talent, junior forward Paul Carter appeared to be the guy who would get left out of the mix heading into the summer. After watching him in Howard Pulley, however, I’m not so sure. He’s bulked up to more than 200 pounds after joining the Gophers as a 6-8, 185-pound juco transfer. And he’s quicker and more agile. It will be hard to keep him off the floor.
-Lawrence Westbrook says that he’s lost 35 pounds this summer, but also added that he’s stronger and faster on a recent Facebook post.
-Tubby Smith hosted an overnight Father-Son camp Friday and Saturday. He tweeted this Monday: “What a great Father/Son camp we had this past weekend. Before you know it school will begin. Go Gophers!”
-Williams Arena will have a new floor next season, but it will also have new basketball hoops, according to Gophers spokesman Matt Slieter. The Gophers will compete on larger, rollaway baskets, a la the Minnesota Timberwolves, during the upcoming season.