Royce White, Trevor Mbakwe, and the Mess That is Minnesota Gophers Basketball


Royce White

The Minnesota Gophers Basketball team’s offseason just keeps getting longer.

After a surprise run to the Big Ten Tournament final that produced an NCAA tournament bid for Tubby’s depleted squad, the wheels started to fall off after their first round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament.

On top of three graduates, two of which were key contributors in Damian Johnson and leading scorer Lawrence Westbrook, players started to flea the program like Williams Arena was on fire.

Paul Carter, who’s sister continues to battle cancer, withdrew from school to go closer to home, which happens to be Chicago, and to help his family in this tough time.  He has since enrolled in the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Justin Cobbs was the next to bolt, saying he also wanted to be closer to his home in Los Angeles, and was taken in by Cal, a definite positive for Cobbs.

While Cobbs wasn’t expected to be hugely important to the Gophers immediate plans, he did show signs of improvement throughout the year and for being a freshman, contributed valiantly when called upon.

Carter is a much more significant loss, as he was expected to step into the spot Johnson vacated and be the defensive presence Johnson was when at the U, as well as a decent offensive contributor.  With him the depth in the frontcourt was not an issue, without him the Gophers are left to wonder where the minutes will come from.

Paul Carter

That is especially the case considering the obvious departure of Royce White nearly five months ago from Minnesota, but the saga has not stopped from there with White.

Recently, stories have surfaced that White will likely be returning to school and seeking a top line program to accommodate him.  Kentucky, Baylor, and the current frontrunner Iowa State have been the rumored destinations for White, adding at the Howard Pulley Pro Am basketball tournament that the chances of him returning to Minnesota were “slim to none”.

To make matters worse, a third member of Tubby’s 2009 recruiting class, highly touted Miami-Dade Community College transfer Trevor Mbakwe, has asked athletic director Joel Maturi to allow him to explore transferring for a third time in his college career.

Since asking for that right, which both Maturi and Smith granted, Mbakwe has visited Memphis and has drawn interest from a number of others schools he would not mention.  Although this is far from a done deal, which Mbakwe was sure to mention at the Pro Am, it is a distinct possibility.

Trevor Mbakwe

Unfortunately, Tubby has not been able to compensate for the loss of any of these players in recruiting.  He has been able to lure big name recruits in the last two years, but this year the highest rated incoming freshman for the Gophers is center Maurice Walker, ranked #118 in the nation overall according to  None of the other recruits are ranked in the top 250 and do not appear capable of making an instant difference on this team.

While they may not be ready, some of them may have to mature quick with the frontcourt situation that is forming.  With no real power forward capable of starting on this team, Walker and possibly Oto Osenieks, the only power forward in the class, will be under the microscope right away.

It’s been a slow burn over the last eight months for the Gophers, as they have lost impact players one after another.  If they want to get back to the NCAA tournament this next year, Minnesota fans will have to hope Royce White or Trevor Mbakwe have a sudden change of heart, or that the biggest asset this program has, Tubby Smith, has worked his magic to find a few diamonds in the rough.

Without either of those things happening, the next year will be a painful one for the maroon and gold.

-Mike Gallagher


  1. im a part time actress and i have been studying theater at Uconn. anyway, i really love jwoww on the jersey shore, it would be cool to get my launch on a reality tv show similar to that!

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