Walker Beeken Trevor Mbakwe
has given Minnesota a big lift so far this season with his rebounding and presence in the paint. The redshirt junior, who will be 22 years old later this month, played his freshman season at Marquette in 2007-2008, before transferring to Miami Dade Junior College. He spent one season there, then committed to Minnesota, but he was forced to sit out all of last season due to a bizarre assault charge (of which he was eventually cleared
) stemming from his time at Miami Dade.
He's made a big difference on the court for Tubby Smith's squad this season though, and has caught the attention of NBA scouts as a potential player to watch at the power forward position.
Mbakwe makes his biggest impact on the game with his tremendous rebounding ability. He's currently grabbing 14.3 rebounds per forty minutes pace adjusted, which ranks him sixth amongst all prospects in our database.
Although he's a bit undersized for an NBA power forward prospect at 6'8, he makes up for that with a great motor, good elevation, a strong body, and an excellent wingspan. His intensity on the boards is something he should continue to focus on, as rebounding is clearly his bread and butter and will be the skill that that he hangs his hat on as an NBA prospect.
Offensively, Mbakwe has been pretty efficient so far this season, but he still lacks quite a bit of polish. He uses about 25% of his possessions in the post, and right now he's still a work in progress. He does a nice job using his strong lower body to establish position and is at his best when he can catch and make a power move to the basket. He goes up to the rim aggressively, usually looking to dunk the ball, but he can also finish with either hand with decent touch.
With his back to the basket, Mbakwe lacks some skill and doesn't have much in terms of a go-to move. He also struggles with turnovers, which can be traced to putting the ball on the floor in traffic, as well as travelling calls due to poor footwork.
A key to Mbakwe's development going forward will be his ability to establish himself as a better jump shooter. Right now, Mbakwe rarely attempts any jumpers, and when he does, it is clear that he's uncomfortable and lacks confidence.
Even when left wide open inside fifteen feet, his release is tentative and his balance is usually off. His free throw percentage further illustrates this as he's shooting a very poor 59% from the stripe so far this season. His stroke and touch aren't that bad, though, so there is room for improvement, which would go a long way towards making him more valuable on the offensive end.
Mbakwe has all of the tools to be successful defensively, despite being slightly undersized as a power forward. His length, strength, athleticism, and toughness enable him to compete on the interior, and he's blocking a solid 1.5 shots per game so far this season.
He also moves pretty well laterally for a four man, which should help him in trying to cover pick and rolls and defending face up power forwards. He has too many lapses in focus though, especially off the ball, which occasionally lead to poor positioning and some careless fouls. NBA teams will want to see a player with his offensive limitations bring 100% effort on the defensive end on every single possession, and right now it's tough to say that Mbakwe does that, even if it's clear that he has the tools to if he so desires.
Overall, Mbakwe will face some challenges in proving to scouts that he'd be able to contribute at the NBA level due to his age, height, average bulk, and lack of polish offensively. He still has another season at Minnesota though, and if he can continue to dominate the glass and develop a reliable jump shot, he'll get some looks from teams who need toughness, energy, and rebounding at the power forward position.
We've seen there is a place in the league for players of that mold, and right now the demand for them is higher than the supply.