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I just got off the phone with Trevor Mbakwe. The former Marquette forward told me that he verbally committed to Minnesota tonight. The 6-7 forward was a star at Henry Sibley, before he ended up at Marquette. He’s playing at Miami-Dade Community College this season.

Mbakwe will bring a much-needed physical presence to Minnesota’s frontcourt. With Mbakwe signing on with Tubby Smith’s 2009 class, the Gophers may have one of the top 15 recruiting classes in the country.

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“It feels great to get it over with,” Mbakwe said. “My mother (Ann), called Tubby tonight to let me know I was going to be a Gopher. I was planning on waiting it out to see how things would go, but after talking with my family, they said why wait if I like Tubby and I felt I could come in and help the team right away.”

The former St. Bernard’s and Henry Sibley High School standout made his official visit to the Gophers last Friday while attending “Tubby’s Tipoff” at Williams Arena. He was also receiving scholarship offers from Miami (Fla.), Louisiana State and Oregon, among others.

The St. Paul native said he looks forward to doing “big things” with the Gophers in 2009-10 when he has two years of eligibility remaining. He will bring the physical rebounding presence Minnesota will need to climb to the top in the Big Ten Conference.

Mbakwe said he needed six stiches on his left non-shooting hand this week after cutting himself, but he should be fine when the season starts for Miami Dade on Halloween night. He will join Memphis commit Will Coleman in the frontcourt and expects to compete for a junior college national title.