The rehab process for Minnesota Golden Gophers sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe's injured knee is moving along quite well, and the 6-foot-8 forward is already running, jumping, and doing other light exercises.
Mbakwe suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a game against Dayton back on November 27th of last year, effectively ending his senior season after just seven games. By his count, though, he expects to be ready to open the 2012-13 season with his teammates in early November, giving him an impressive turnaround time of less than a year. But as we've seen with professional athletes over time, it often takes much more than a year for a player to regain the explosiveness that he once had. Still, though, Mbakwe is confident that he can play a full season.
"I think I'll be fine by the time the season gets here," Mbakwe said earlier in the week on SiriusXM Radio. "Our trainers have been doing a great job of getting me back. I'm not doing too much right away, kind of moving at a good pace, making sure I'm on track and have no setbacks."
Whether he's able to immediately pick up his rebounding and shot-blocking paces from before the injury or not, it's hard to believe the Gophers would rush their star back to the court if he's still not entirely back to health or might actually be a liability. Even if he's not able to play in the first few games of the year, a part-time role with monitored minutes seems like a real possibility until December or January roll around.
Mbakwe was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA since he was only able to play in a fraction of his team's games last year, and is expected to be one of top returning players in the Big Ten this season if he can regain his form at both ends. With Mbakwe back in the lineup, the Gophers will be hoping to improve upon their disastrous effort in Big Ten play (6-12) this past year.