Mensah-Bonsu (’02) named GM of Washington Wizards NBA G-League Team
If you listen closely enough, the roar of the Rowdies from the thunderous dunks in “The Cave” can still be heard. Those who witnessed the games in-person have never forgotten the smile and personality of the young man who electrified the campus throughout his Prep career. That young man is now an accomplished professional, recently tasked with leading an NBA G-League Franchise into its inaugural season as their General Manager.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu came to St. Augustine Prep with dreams of athletic stardom; however, those aspirations did not include a basketball as his sport of choice was track & field – most specifically the high jump. His athleticism would make the transition to the basketball court a natural one but his determination and work ethic would make it legendary.
Mensah-Bonsu’s academic and athletic career would continue from Richland, NJ to Washington, D.C. and George Washington University. As impressive as his play was on the court, his charisma, eloquence, and service to the community endeared him to the Foggy Bottom locals and beyond. Pops blossomed into a dominant power forward and became a household name as the Mensah-Bonsu-led Colonials appeared in back-to-back NCAA tournaments and also received their first top-10 ranking in 50 years following a school-record 27-3 run in 2006. His electrifying college career captivated the country, most specifically ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt who was drawn by Pops’ unique name and soon after hooked to his ferocious game. (LINK: https://www.gwhatchet.com/2006/03/09/a-10-preview-an-anchors-love/)
His success on the court would continue during a professional career which included time in the NBA (Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors, New Orleans Hornets) and overseas in Spain, France, Turkey, Russia, Italy, Israel, and Greece. He would continue to thrill crowds with his patented play above-the-rim along with his high-defensive IQ and dominant rebounding. His most memorable season would come in 2011-12 with Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League. This landmark season included the team winning the League championship, Turkish Cup, and EuroChallenge and was capped by Pops being named the TBL Player of the Year. The magical year would continue into the summer, as he was selected to represent Great Britain in the 2012 Summer Olympics playing alongside fellow Hermit, 1999 graduate Andrew Sullivan.
Pops’ playing career would conclude in 2015 but his impact on the world had just begun. In just three short years, Pops would accept a position with the National Basketball Players’ Association, moonlight as a color commentator for George Washington Basketball, and serve as an Advanced Scout for Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. His post-playing career would also allow him the opportunity to continue his passion for service to the community. This past summer, Pops joined a number of NBA veterans as well as French President, Emmanuel Marcon, in launching an initiative geared toward improving lives in developing and emerging economies. Their partnership would provide assistance for projects promoting social inclusion by developing basketball infrastructure and conducting youth basketball programmes, events, and initiatives in Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Senegal and other countries in the continent. In conjunction with the initiative, Pops would headline the NBA’s annual clinic in Nigeria. The experience would be a memorable one for the campers and Pops as well, he commented –
“It’s been great playing Basketball since I was 14 years old. Basketball has changed my life and helped me take care of my family. It has taken me to a lot of places, literally every country in Europe, the Continent of Africa and even Nigeria today because this the first time I am visiting the country and its basketball that brought me here even as a retired player. It has given me the opportunity to make a difference.”
Ultimately, his journey would lead to being named General Manager of the Washington Wizard’s NBA G-League Affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go.
— Capital City Go-Go (@CapitalCityGoGo) August 8, 2018
In the weeks following the announcement of his new title, Pops found his way back to Richland in late August, taking time to speak with the young men who now sit in the same position he was in just 16 years ago. He spoke of perseverance and hard work, sharing details of the arduous but rewarding path he had taken to where he stands today. He spoke of the support of the Hermit Brotherhood, the principles instilled in him, and how the Brotherhood includes the teachers and coaches who were there for him even after his time as a Prep student had concluded. In asking for permission to use many of the photos included within this story, Pops cut the author off and quipped in his recognizable baritone, “It’s all good, whatever I can do to help the Prep. I love the place and am happy to do anything I can to help it forward.”
Needless to say, the sky remains the limit for Pops’ career and his impact on society – soon the deafening roar in the arena will be in celebration of his mastery as an NBA executive and his tireless work in the community.
Who better to end the article then the man himself…
— Capital City Go-Go (@CapitalCityGoGo) August 7, 2018