If the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Coach Tubby Smith are to make a serious run at a Big Ten Conference title, Trevor Mbakwe is going to play a significant role.
Mbakwe is a force to be reckoned with in the low post and worked hard to improve his outside shot this offseason. He was named this week as a preseason third-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection.
Mbakwe’s legal troubles stem from an incident that occurred prior to his arrival in Minnesota and an incident earlier this year.
While he was a playing basketball at Miami Dade College during the 2008-09 season, Mbakwe was accused of assaulting a coed. Mbakwe denied the allegations against him, claiming it was a case of mistaken identity.
In August of 2010, Mbakwe chose to forgo a trial and decided to enter into a pretrial diversion program. Upon completion of the terms of the program, the State of Florida will drop its case against him and there will be no criminal conviction on his record.
Mbakwe’s decision to enter the pretrial diversion program was not an admission of guilt. The program requires Mbakwe to serve 100 hours of community service, donate $100 to a Florida shelter for abuse victims and not run afoul of the law for six months.
In January of this year, Mbakwe was arrested for violating the terms of a restraining order in Minnesota issued by one of his former girlfriends when he sent her a post on Facebook.
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According to the University of Minnesota, the following Facebook posting got Mbakwe arrested:
Mbakwe was arrested on misdemeanor charges and was required to post bail in the amount of $500. As a result of Mbakwe’s arrest in Minnesota, the judge in Florida stayed final resolution of the assault case.
At the time of Mbakwe’s misdemeanor arrest, Coach Tubby Smith said, “[While] his actions were well-intended [he] had a lapse in judgment.”
The misdemeanor restraining order case in Minnesota is expected to go to trial in St. Paul in April.
The assault case in Florida is scheduled to be back before the judge on January 23, 2012. Miami State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Terry Chavez, however, has said that it is likely the matter will “drag on” or be continued until a decision is made in the misdemeanor case.
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When asked about the status of the cases during Big Ten Media Day, Mbakwe concurred with Ms. Chavez’s assessment in that he believes that “nothing is going to happen during the season.”
During Big Ten Media Day, Mbakwe appeared to have a huge weight off of his shoulders. “That had been following me for so long,” said Mbakwe. “It definitely feels good to focus on basketball and being a student rather than all of the off-court stuff that’s going on.”
Gopher fans are definitely ready for a season where all the drama is on the court instead of off the court.
(Some of the quotes and information within this article initially appeared in, “Gophers’ Trevor Mbakwe says legal troubles won’t be an issue during season,” Marcus R. Fuller, Pioneer Press, 10/28/2011 and “Minnesota’s Mbakwe to play,” UPI, 1/12/2011.)