Mike Woodson is clearly growing tired of the “what’s wrong with Mgbako” questions.
His prized freshman recruit has started the first five games of his college career, but he hasn’t done much finishing to this point.
Defensive miscues have been an issue throughout the early days of Mgbako’s college career, but early foul trouble doomed his afternoon against Louisville on Monday in New York. The former consensus 5-star, top-10 recruiting prospect played just nine minutes and scored four points against the Cardinals in a 74-66 Indiana win.
Mgbako picked up two fouls less than two minutes into the game against Louisville, but he never picked up even a third on the evening. Woodson could have played him plenty in the second half.
So that does kind of beg the question, what’s wrong with Mgbako? The next person who asks may want to duck.
“He’s a young player, man,” Woodson said. “All you guys expect him to be a great player right now because he’s got that five star tag on him. I think that’s bullshit. The bottom line is that he’s still young, he’s trying to learn the college game.”
“He got two early fouls, brought someone else in. It’s a team sport, he’ll be fine.”
That someone else was primarily sophomore forward Kaleb Banks, who Woodson opted to play down the stretch as the Hoosiers rallied from a seven point second half deficit.
Mgbako came out of the game with 12:36 left and didn’t check back in. He appeared once again to be the culprit in some defensive breakdowns as Louisville went on a run. And Mgbako continued to struggle shooting the basketball Monday. He was 0-of-3 from behind the arc, and now stands at just 1-of-13 from long range on the season.
Meanwhile Banks, who battled Mgbako for the starting small forward role throughout the summer and early fall, was terrific. He scored just four points, but his most notable contribution was the energy he brought to the floor, illustrated best by his eight rebounds, three blocks, and three steals.
Woodson hasn’t been one to tinker with his starting lineup, but the performance by Banks and others on the IU bench was notable.
The third-year Indiana coach is right, Mgbako probably will be fine. Woodson certainly has his young player’s back, which seems like a positive thing. And the 2023 McDonald’s All-American certainly has the credentials of a guy who should figure things out at some point.
But when will that day come?
It’s a fair question. Just be careful how you ask.
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