Tubby Smith on Trevor Mbakwe: 'I think he's gearing up to be back'

Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe can return to the Gophers for sixth year of NCAA hoops if he wants, and Tubby Smith thinks Mbakwe "wants to be here." The team sent a letter to the NCAA requesting an extra scholarship for Mbakwe next season.
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Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe can return to the Gophers for sixth year of NCAA hoops if he wants, and Tubby Smith thinks Mbakwe "wants to be here." The team sent a letter to the NCAA requesting an extra scholarship for Mbakwe next season.

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The Gophers have lost five in a row and six of seven in Big Ten play, but head coach Tubby Smith won't be blaming the struggles on the absence of injured star Trevor Mbakwe. Instead, Smith believes his team is struggling psychologically. He says he needs to find a way to boost the players' confidence, and that playing at Wisconsin on Tuesday will be a real test of character.

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The injured senior forward could find out as early as next week if he'll get a sixth year of eligibility. The Pioneer Press reports coach Tubby Smith is "optimistic" Mbakwe will be given the opportunity to play. The St. Paul native suffered a knee injury that ended his season in November.

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The NCAA granted Gophers' forward Trevor Mbakwe a sixth year of eligibility on Friday, but Mbakwe hasn't decided if he'll return to the Gophers or enter the NBA draft. Mbakwe says "there's still possibility" that he'll enter the draft, but he also wants to help the Gophers get to the NCAA tournament.

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The Gophers' basketball season may have come to a crashing halt Monday when the University announced Trevor Mbakwe will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Tubby Smith is now facing the challenge of replacing his best player.

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Gophers' forward Trevor Mbakwe has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. On his Twitter page, he writes that he's happy with the decision and "Gophernation is the best."

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Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith knows good teams across the country "come up with the wins and big plays" this time of year that are needed to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament. Smith also says he doesn't like being under .500 in the Big Ten -- something he hopes to change Thursday night against Wisconsin.