Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Fan In Press Row: Trevor Mbakwe Out = Golden Gophers Better?

Rodney & Welch Look To Pick Up Trevor

I know it sounds stupid to think the Gophers are better without Trevor Mbakwe, but it just might be true.

The Gophers are 3-0 (VTech, USC, Appalachian St) since Trevor suffered a season ending ACL tear against Dayton in the Old Spice Classic Championship game. Something, as a diehard Gopher fan, I didn’t see coming.

Not because I didn’t think the team had the capable players, more so because the shock of losing a leader could have destroyed such a young team.
However, it seems like this team has another leader to follow.

Rodney Williams.

That’s right, the kid that has been playing out of position his whole career at The U has stepped up in a big way. Maybe some good can come from the bad for once for the Gophers.

Rodney has been playing the “3” pretty much his whole career at The University of Minnesota after predominantly playing the “4” in high school. His game suffered from it. He strives when close to the basket, not out beyond the arc.

Williams is averaging 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds (his best as a Gopher) a game since moving into Trevor’s old spot. Far better numbers than the 7.7 points and 2.7 rebounds he was averaging playing out of position.

Now I know fans will be quick to say Tubby should have made the move sooner, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t going to take either Ralph Sampson III or Trevor out of position. He wanted Rodney to adapt to playing the “3” because Rodney is a starter and had to be on the court. There was no other place for him.

His game now is more than numbers for me, it is his confidence. He is active out there teaching the young guys, hitting the big shots and playing great defense. Everything he wasn’t doing the first part of the season…hell, the first part of his career, he is doing now. I can honestly say this is the best stretch of basketball Rodney has played in his 2+ years as a Gopher.

Will this be the year we finally see the potential all of those NBA scouts were talking about? It’s early, but I say yes.

Now Rodney isn’t the only guy that has stepped up. There is another junior that is helping to carry this team right along with him.

Julian Welch.

Welch has been outstanding pretty much this whole year averaging 9.8 points and 2.3 assists, but has stepped up even more since being inserted into the starting lineup. Welch, since being a starter, has seen his numbers jump to 15.6 points and 3.3 assists a game. Not only that, he is shooting 93% from the charity stripe.

The only two free throws he didn’t make (back to back against DePaul), his fellow leader Rodney was there for the put back. Fitting isn’t it?

He needs to cut down on his turnovers (2.6 a game), but really that is pretty much it. The JuCo transfer has the make up to lead this team in a backcourt that is very young and might be the best scoring guard we have had in awhile. Combine that with great inside play from Rodney and we just might have something special.

I know it’s only been three games and the games haven’t been against the toughest competition and have been at home, but still in all this is a good sign. This team could have easily climbed into their dug out holes and stayed there for the winter.

But they didn’t.

They have done the exact opposite. I know it’s hard to get your hopes up when it comes to Gopher Basketball. But maybe, just maybe this is the year to do it. It’s always a rollercoaster ride with this team and that accounts for half the fun.

Check back with me in December, I could be singing a different tune. After all, this does have the makings a few sports tears in my beer.



  1. Play Michigan State and see how they look after that. Playing a team like State with their bulk inside without MBawkwe will be litmus test that this experiment/new lineup needs.

    But you do have to like what Rodney is bringing, I'd compare him to a shorter version of John Hensen from UNC right now.

  2. I agree that Mich State and OSU will give us problems inside, but EE has stepped his game up in place of Sampson who is also hurt. I'm not as worried about that as some.....maybe I should be.

  3. EE has never truly been tested either so his peformances up to this point need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Goph fans will learn a lot about this teams inside play once Big begins.