That’s A Wrap: Mackenzie Mgbako

  • 04/16/2024 8:52 am in

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2023-24 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Mackenzie Mgbako.

Mgbako (33 games): 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 39.5 FG% in 27.1 minutes per game.

Previously: Gabe Cupps

A late addition to Indiana’s 2023 recruiting class, Mackenzie Mgbako exhibited tremendous growth as a freshman.

Originally a Duke signee, Mgbako reopened his recruitment in April of 2023 and chose the Hoosiers over Kansas in early May.

Mgbako, a 6-foot-8 forward from Gladstone, New Jersey, arrived on campus with significant expectations. A 2023 McDonald’s All-American and a top-10 prospect nationally, he wasn’t shy about his ambitions to play in the NBA after just one season in college.

But Mgbako’s college career started slowly. He struggled with defensive concepts and didn’t shoot the ball well early on.

Over Indiana’s first five games, Mgbako averaged five points and shot just 1-for-13 on 3s. On a few occasions, Mgbako was benched late for defensive reasons and he played over 20 minutes in just two of IU’s first five contests.

“All you guys expect him to be this great player right now because he’s got this five-star tag on him,” Mike Woodson said of Mgbako in November. “I think that’s bullshit. The bottom line is, he’s still young, he’s trying to learn the college game … he’ll be fine.”

But as Mgbako began to gain comfort with the speed of the college game and his role, the level of his play rose substantially.

He scored double figures in nine of Indiana’s final 10 games, including three games with 20 or more points.

In an 83-78 win at Maryland on March 3, Mgbako scored a season-high 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 mark from the free-throw line.

While his overall 3-point shooting numbers don’t jump off the page — he shot 32.7 percent for the season — his splits in conference games showed what he’s capable of moving forward. In 20 Big Ten games, Mgbako went 37-for-98 from distance (37.8 percent), the 21st-best mark in the league.

His free-throw shooting numbers were also a bright spot on an Indiana team that was dismal from the line. Mgbako went 92-for-112 from the line (82.1 percent), easily the best mark on the roster. He also had the 10th-lowest turnover percentage of any Big Ten player in league play, at 10.5.

Mgbako’s late-season surge vaulted him into the conversation for Big Ten freshman of the year, an award he shared with Iowa’s Owen Freeman in the voting from league coaches.

Rebounding and becoming more comfortable with the ball in his hands are clear areas for improvement as Mgbako prepares for his second season. Later in the season, he became more aggressive off the dribble and continued to make himself more of a threat to drive, which should give him more space to operate on the perimeter as a sophomore.

Bottom line: While Mgbako wasn’t shy about his professional expectations before the season, he didn’t even test the NBA draft waters in the postseason and announced his plans to return to school for a second season. Already a polished scorer, Mgbako has major breakout potential in year two in Bloomington. He’ll be more of a focal point of Indiana’s offense and should be one of the best wings not only in the Big Ten but in the country.

Quotable: “You think back to when he started, he struggled Mack has come a long way in terms of where he started and where he is at today. He’s trying to do the right things on the floor. He’s still learning. He’s in that learning stage. From a defensive standpoint, he still has a ways to go. Sometimes you gotta fail to be successful. I like his work ethic. When he’s in practice, he gives you what he’s got. But tonight, you saw a guy who was relentless on the glass. He rebounded for us when we needed it and he made tough shots inside. I’m happy with Mack, man, I think he’s gonna continue to get better.” – Woodson on Mgbako after a loss at Illinois in late January.

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