When Mackenzie Mgbako committed to the Hoosiers on May 12th, he became the second highest rated recruit in program history, behind only Romeo Langford.
Mgbako, the No. 10 player in the class of 2023, chose Indiana over Kansas after decommitting from Duke this spring, giving Mike Woodson a crown jewel in a recruiting class that featured Gabe Cupps, Jakai Newton alongside transfers Ke’lel Ware and Payton Sparks.
Landing Mgbako was a significant moment for Indiana in a number of ways. Beating out Kansas and St. Johns in a battle where NIL was a factor confirmed that Indiana is capable of recruiting with the Big Boys again after a couple of lackluster classes at the tail end of Archie Miller’s tenure.
This recruitment was about more than just NIL though, and reflects the way Mike Woodson has elevated Indiana’s stature in the national recruiting conversation. As reported by the Daily Hoosier, Mackenzie’s mom got this recruitment started by reaching out to Woodson herself once he opted out of his commitment to Duke.
It’s become cool to be a Hoosier again, and Mackenzie Mgbako’s commitment only solidifies that Mike Woodson has Indiana in a great place.
On the Court
Touted as an elite shooter for a power forward, Mgbako will likely replace Miller Kopp in the starting lineup and will be expected to replace the 3-point volume that Indiana lost with Kopp’s graduation.
At Roselle Catholic, Mgbako averaged multiple 3-point attempts per game all four years of his high school career, which bodes well for the role he’ll be expected to play at Indiana. He also rebounds well, coming in at just under 10 boards per game in his senior season.
Even when his shots aren’t falling, it’s easy to see why Mgbako projects so well as a perimeter scorer. His jumpshot looks nearly perfect, and he’s able to get his shot off the pass, dribble, and with a defender in his face. He’s also capable of knocking down mid-range pull up jumpers, a key part of Indiana’s success against Purdue last season.
While he’s not a point-forward type player, he is definitely a plus athlete who will be able to create for himself when needed, especially against the less-mobile bigs that have become a staple in the conference (Greg Gard and Matt Painter, you will pay for your sins).
With the ball in his hands, he’s more of a straight-line driver, but has a burst that should make him more productive than Kopp when he isn’t shooting from deep. He also uses this athleticism to be an effective off-ball cutter and appears comfortable scoring around the rim.
One thing that should endear him to Indiana fans early on is his hustle on the defensive end and willingness to play both ways. At around the minute mark in the video above, you can see him jump a pass to force a turnover and get out ahead to finish on a fast break.
Given Indiana’s current roster make up with Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau inside, Mgbako probably won’t be playing too much interior defense. In high school though, he averaged more than a block per game, which should make opposing wings reluctant to try to get to the basket against him.
With his size and skillset, he is definitely well-positioned to be a first round draft pick after his first season in Bloomington. Considering how Woodson was able to develop Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino, I would not be surprised if Mgbako ends up in the lottery.
All that being said, it’s important to remember he’s just a freshman and will undoubtedly have some games where he looks like a freshman. One thing I’m interested in this year is whether Woodson will let him play through them, like he did with Hood-Schifino after Xavier Johnson’s injury, or if he will go to sophomore Kaleb Banks off the bench when Mgbako struggles.
No matter what, Mgbako is an elite talent that immediately raised the ceiling for Indiana when he committed to Mike Woodson. Alongside Kel’el Ware, he’s the kind of player that can bring the Hoosiers into the 21st century of basketball with his size and scoring ability.