Pops: Around the World and Back at Home in D.C. Again
GW Great Pops Mensah-Bonsu Back in 'Second Home' Hoping to Stick With NBA's Wizards
Oct. 9, 2013
Born in London of Ghanaian descent and having played professionally in Italy, Spain, Russia, France and Turkey, as well as with five NBA teams in the U.S. and Canada, it would be difficult to begrudge the well-traveled Pops Mensah-Bonsu for the opportunity to sleep in his own bed.
This NBA preseason, Mensah-Bonsu is enjoying the chance to do just that as he competes for a roster spot with the Washington Wizards. Over a decade after first arriving in D.C. to study psychology and play basketball at GW, the fan favorite virtually everywhere he's played still refers to the nation's capital as his "second home."
Mensah-Bonsu was part of a 2002-03 recruiting class for George Washington that also included Mike Hall, whom Pops calls the "best rebounder I've ever played with." It was with Hall that he took Foggy Bottom on a ride to No. 6 in the national polls in 2005-06, the first time in 50 years that GW was able to boast a top 10 national ranking.
Still in touch with Hall and other former GW standouts Danilo Pinnock, Carl Elliott and Maureece Rice, Mensah-Bonsu is in a position to reflect on where he's been and where he still wants to go.
Speaking about the prospect of making the local NBA team, Mensah-Bonsu was equal parts optimistic and nostalgic. "I look at it as an opportunity. It's been a long road for me. I started at GW 10 years ago, and I've been based in D.C. ever since. This is my second home and any opportunity is a good opportunity, so I'm just glad I'm here."
The "here" that he referenced was Verizon Center in downtown D.C., where on October 8 Mensah-Bonsu competed for the home team in Washington, albeit as a professional seven years after he last represented his second home on the collegiate level with the Colonials.
In the Wizards' preseason debut against the new-look Nets, Mensah-Bonsu teamed with John Wall and Nenê to take Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the Jason Kidd-coached Brooklyn squad to overtime, with GW's former star contributing two points, three rebounds and a steal in nine minutes of action.
For Pops, however, the game's result is just another part of his story.
"Every experience I've had has helped mold me into the person I am today," he said. "I've had a few stints in the NBA. I've played for about four or five teams, and even though I've been cut or released a few times, I feel like whenever you lose, you should never lose a lesson, so any experience I've had is a life experience. I've grown as a man, and it's made me, like I said, the man I am today. I take every experience as something that's helped me become the person I am. I can appreciate everything I've been through up until this point. I'm glad I've been through it, and hopefully I get more of an opportunity here, and we'll see where it goes."
For the GW faithful and the college basketball fans across the country that Mensah-Bonsu and Co. captivated in 2006, the firm belief is that "where it goes" will be exciting and memorable in true Pops' fashion.