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Associated Press, Published October 19 2012

Minnesota forward Mbakwe sentenced to probation

MINNEAPOLIS — A Florida judge has given two more years of probation to Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe for a drunken-driving arrest over the summer.

Mbakwe was on probation for a 2009 felony battery charge in Florida at the time of his July 1 arrest in Minnesota and could have faced jail time for the violation. But Miami-Dade judge Jose Fernandez warned Mbakwe at a hearing: “You're not a cat; you don't have nine lives. You're going to do something and it's going to be the end of any chances you have. This may be it; this may be your last chance.”

Fernandez also sentenced Mbakwe to 20 hours of community service per month for the two years. Mbakwe also must attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings three times per week, the Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/XyJTHy ) reported.

Mbakwe had previously been sentenced to one year probation and community service in Minnesota.

Mbakwe said he was grateful for another chance. He said he spoke to coach Tubby Smith and the coaches are supporting him.

“I've been thinking about this since July 1. It's been stressing me and my family out and I'm glad it's over,” Mbakwe said. “I'm just going to stay on the right track now; no more slip-ups. ... I'm just going to show everybody they were right in supporting me.”

A Gophers spokesman said Friday the team would not have any comment.

Mbakwe was put on probation in Florida as part of a pretrial intervention program for the 2009 felony battery charge. After the July arrest, Mbakwe and his attorney, Gregory Samms, asked the judge to consider four extra years of probation, arguing that the sixth-year senior is in Alcoholics Anonymous and struggles with depression.

But Fernandez decided that two years of probation with conditions was punishment enough. He said Mbakwe is “still amenable to treatment” and that he has “the ability to turn around.”

When news of Mbakwe's DWI arrest finally became public a week ago at basketball media day, Smith said Mbakwe was suspended from all team activities after the arrest and that the coach considered kicking him off the team before ultimately deciding to let him stay.

In December, Mbakwe pleaded guilty to violating a harassment restraining order when he admitted sending a Facebook message to an ex-girlfriend in January 2011. His probation in Minnesota stemming from that incident is set to expire Dec. 12.

“I so didn't want him to go to jail,” said Samms, Mbakwe's attorney. “We've been together for so long now. He's like my son.”

The NCAA granted Mbakwe a sixth year of eligibility for this season after he tore an ACL in the Gophers’ seventh game of the season, forcing him to miss the rest of the schedule.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com