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Indiana basketball freshman Mackenzie Mgbako not making ‘big enough splash’ for one-and-done potential despite recent surge



Indiana basketball
Indiana basketball freshman wing Mackenzie Mgbako still has not made a 'big enough splash' for one-and-done potential despite a recent surge. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

When Mackenzie Mgabko committed and signed with the Indiana basketball program, the idea of being a one-and-done prospect was at the top of everyone’s mind. As a McDonald’s All-American and top-10 prospect in the class, there was a good reason behind all of the hype.Mgbako has had his struggles, however. But, he’s gone from a player who was nearly unplayable the first month of the season, to one of the most important players on the roster for Indiana — and within distance of holding true to his preseason Big Ten Freshman of the Year prediction.

After averaging just 5.0 points on 32 percent shooting and just 1-of-13 from three in the first five games, he’s bounced back in a nice way.

Since that point, Mgbako has averaged 12.7 points on 40.7 percent shooting and 36.5 percent from three on 1.7 made 3s per game.

“You’ve got to understand that these young guys, they take a while to develop,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said earlier this season. “They come out of high school, out of the AAU programs that they play in, and it’s not just that easy to walk into college basketball and be great. If it was that easy, everybody would be doing it. 

“But he’s put the work in. He’s continuing to work, along with the rest of our young players. All we can do as coaches is continue to teach and push and try to get as much out of them as we can as we continue this journey.”

On the season, Mgbako is averaging 10.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. He’s shooting 39 percent from the floor, 32.3 percent from three and 84.4 percent from the free throw line.

In Big Ten games alone, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 12.2 points with shooting percentages of 39.2 percent overall and 38.1 percent from three on 1.6 made 3s per game.

Coming into this season, Mgbako was slotted in the late first round or early second round of numerous mock drafts. He’s now slid out of the first round and is only listed on a few draft boards.

But, is his recent surge enough to get him back in the conversation?

“Indiana’s Mackenzie Mgbako and Auburn’s Aden Holloway are both in similar positions,” 247Sports Director of Scouting Adam Finkelstein wrote. “They’re starters and solid players, but neither are making a big enough splash to warrant any real NBA traction at this point.”

Mgbako has emerged as a real go-to player for Indiana and now with the possibility of Malik Reneau missing time with an ankle injury, there could be an opening to slide him to play the small-ball 4, a position that could be better fit for him at this level.

In the last 16 games, Mgbako has scored 10+ points 14 times.

“Sometimes you gotta fail to be successful,” Woodson said last week. “I like his work ethic. When he’s in practice, he gives you what he’s got. But tonight, you saw a guy that was relentless on the board. He rebounded for us when we needed it and he made tough shots inside. I’m happy with Mack, man, I just think he’s gonna continue to get better as the games go along.”

Time will tell whether or not Mgbako will be at Indiana next season. But for now, he continues to improve and become a much better all-around player.

“The unfortunate reality, though, is that too often those 5-star prospects arrive in college with one foot already out the door,” Finkelstein added. “Their one-and-done track is already decided before they even attend their first practice. As we’ve seen in the past, that can lead to some bad business decisions.”

SEE ALSO: Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson uncertain of severity of injuries to Malik Reneau, Xavier Johnson

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.