Mackenzie Mgbako was named a McDonald’s All-American and a 5-star recruit before he arrived at Indiana.
Now he can add Diaper Dandy to his long list of accolades earned he steps on the floor in Bloomington.
Mgbako was named one of legendary ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale’s 12 “Diaper Dandies,” a moniker he’s used for decades to describe the game’s top freshmen. The only other Big Ten player to be recognized on Vitale’s list was Xavier Booker, a central Indiana product who is playing for Michigan State.
A sensational freshman. 🚼 pic.twitter.com/qtYQPOMp5h
— Indiana Basketball (@IndianaMBB) August 22, 2023
One of the big storylines for Indiana going into the 2023-24 season is whether Mgbako can play the small forward position in college. That was a topic of discussion led by Adam Finkelstein on 247Sports’ national college basketball recruiting podcast this week.
Finkelstein was a long-time high school talent evaluator for ESPN.
“Mgbako is a guy who has always wanted to play the three,” Finkelstein said on the show. “I was concerned about how he would do laterally on the defensive end of the floor. You add to that the fact that I’ve heard and I think you mentioned this, he has bulked up and added a notable amount of muscle mass to his frame this summer. We saw that starting over the course of his senior year. I think that just makes him even more of a four.”
Finkelstein continued, and we’d agree, that IU will start Malik Reneau and Kel’el Ware, meaning the 6-foot-8 and 215-pound Mgbako has to play the three by default when that trio is on the floor.
Meanwhile, on their social media accounts Indiana put out a “getting to know you” video on Mgbako’s frontcourt mate Kel’el Ware.
The 7-footer from Arkansas talked about being pushed by Mike Woodson, areas of his game he wants to improve, and other topics.
Get to know @KelelWare.
📍 North Little Rock, Arkansas
🎓 Sophomore pic.twitter.com/18rlfERsXN
— Indiana Basketball (@IndianaMBB) August 21, 2023
Finkelstein also had thoughts on Ware, who he thinks has all of the physical attributes and skills to be a star. The question might just come down to his motor.
“There’s not much he (Ware) can’t do. If you were going to design a modern day big man from scratch, you would go down the check list and you would give him almost every tool he has, from the hands to the touch, the mobility, the athleticism, the ability to run,” Finkelstein said. “He’s got all of it. It’s just a matter of how much he wants this.”
With Mgbako and Ware generating the preseason buzz around IU, it’s easy to lose sight of some of the returning players.
But Finkelstein added he’s been hearing good things about the development of Kaleb Banks, a sophomore from Georgia.
“The name we didn’t even mention was Kaleb Banks who I’m told has made some significant strides this summer and is even staying on campus when when a lot of the other players have gone home, and they’re expecting a big jump from him as a sophomore,” Finkelstein said.
Banks has a similar frame and skillset when compared to Mgbako.
There’s no question IU has substantial talent in its front court. The question will be how well the group meshes on the floor. Indiana could end up going with some rotations that include one of Mgbako and Banks at the three, and the other at the four.
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