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A 2006 Hatchet front page, the issue after the Colonials clinched a perfect conference record.

A 2006 Hatchet front page, the issue after the Colonials clinched a perfect conference record.

On this day eight years ago, the men’s basketball team suffered a 79-58 defeat at the hands of North Carolina State. It was the Colonials first loss of the season.

Karl Hobbs

Karl Hobbs coaches from the sidelines during a men’s basketball game. Hatchet File Photo

That 2005-06 Colonials squad, led by then-head coach Karl Hobbs, is the most storied team in recent GW basketball history – the last to win a game in the NCAA tournament and the last to start a season 11-1.

Until now.

After its 69-58 victory over Hofstra Saturday, the 2013-14 Colonials are drawing some comparisons to that ’05 team, and rightly so. It’s still yet to be seen if this years team will go on as remarkable a run – these next two non-conference match ups against Kansas State and Georgia should give some signs – but the comparisons alone are giving fans something to cheer about.

For a deeper look at the one-loss 2005-06 GW team, here’s a run down of what helped them achieve so much success at the halfway point of its season.

Big win against Maryland
Dec. 5, 2005: In a nationally televised game at the then-MCI Center (now the Verizon Center), GW defeated rival Maryland, 78-70. Guards Maureece Rice and Danilo Pinnock led the Colonials with 19 points apiece. Like this year’s defeat of the Terps in the BB&T Classic, the ’05 matchup was a close one, as GW led just 63-62 with six minutes to play. An 8-1 run sparked by a Pinnock layup, though, put the game out of reach and gave the Colonials their biggest win of the season thus far.

A sterling backcourt
Rice, Pinnock and junior point guard Carl Elliot made up the GW backcourt that was named the seventh best in the country by Sports Illustrated at the time. Pinnock was averaging a team-high 15.6 points per game, while Elliot was shooting a team-best 51 percent from behind the arc. Rice would end the season averaging 12.6 points per game, second on the team and a nine-point increase from his season before.

A balanced offense
With senior Pops Mensah-Bonsu and center Omar Williams patrolling the paint, the ’05 Colonials put forth a very balanced offense, that by season’s end, averaged 78.7 points per game. That offense was accompanied by a defense that would force a total of 534 turnovers, while holding opponents to 42 percent shooting.

Unblemished A-10 play
Following its loss to NC State, GW would go on to defeat its first A-10 opponent of the season, Temple, less than a week later. That started GW’s run of 18 straight wins to clinch the regular season A-10 title. The team would fall to Temple in the first round of the A-10 Championship before making it to the NCAA Tournament and losing in the second round to Duke and its star shooting guard J.J. Reddick.

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Men’s basketball freshman Paris Maragkos competes in Colonial Invasion’s military challenge. Ashley Lucas | Assistant Photo Editor

Men’s basketball freshman forward Paris Maragkos flew through a series of push-ups, doing his best to meet the demands of the screaming Army serviceman crouching next to him.

It was a drill probably unlike any other Maragkos has experienced, part of the Colonial Invasion’s military challenge, which pitted teams of men’s and women’s basketball players against each other, each competing for the RISC and Team Rubicon charities. And as the players went through the paces of their stations, soldiers stationed in Fort Myer, Va., home to Colonial Invasion this year, came face-to-face with the GW athletes, yelling their encouragement.

In the end, the challenge came down to a breakneck sprint between men’s basketball freshman Kevin Larsen and senior Isaiah Armwood. But though Larsen was crowed the winner by a hair, both charities were awarded a $500 dollar prize, embodying what was billed as the night’s red, white, buff and blue spirit.

“What’s really important to me is that everything we do as an athletic department, we really value and mirror the mission of the University,” athletic director Patrick  Nero said. “And the veterans programs, the military programs, are really important to GW.”

It was the first time in the history of Colonial Invasion that the event was held off-campus, giving rise to concerns over attendance that only heightened with the trips of local Major League Baseball clubs to postseason play.

Athletics communications director Brian Sereno said there were seven buses that shuttled students back and forth between Fort Myer and the Smith Center, about a 10-minute drive away. The final attendance was 837, Sereno said, a number lower than in years past, though less noticeable in the smaller Conmy Hall.

The change in location was born partly because parents’ weekend fell on a different date than Colonial Invasion this year, Nero said, adding this would likely be a one-time occurrence. But it was an opportunity for the department to connect to its history and support the military, he said, and that bypassed concerns over attendance.

“I was [concerned about attendance]. In the end, it turned out fine, but I think for us, it’s about everything that we do goes back to who we are and how we want to be perceived,” Nero said. “The military and this building means a lot to us.”

The focus of the night was on the athletic department’s support of the military community, evident from the opening National Anthem, where members of the GW Spirit Program stretched out an oversized American flag while a video honoring the University’s veterans and current soldiers played in the background.

And as each men’s and women’s basketball player was introduced, they were accompanied by children whose parents serve in the armed forces, and soldiers stationed at Fort Myer took part in many of the night’s activities, including the annual dunk contest. The night was bookended by a performance from the U.S. Army base’s drill team, which whirled its bayonets through the air in a breathtaking display.

Men’s basketball freshman Patricio Garino dunks over men’s basketball senior forward Isaiah Armwood and women’s basketball senior forward Megan Nipe. Ashley Lucas | Assistant Photo Editor

Men’s basketball senior Dwayne Smith said the night was a chance for the Colonials to show the troops their appreciation for their service, and women’s basketball head coach Jonathan Tsipis agreed, adding that it was a unique opportunity to give back.

“It’s exactly what we’re looking for, to have a fan base that’s interactive, and to support such a good cause,” Tsipis said. “The fun part tonight, I told the team earlier today, is you get to really thank people that provide things that sometimes you take for granted.”

The night still had a decidedly GW tinge, however, exemplified by the special guests that included former men’s basketball standout Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who took time after his introduction to sign autographs on the side of the court for the base’s children.

Bearing the hallmark of years past, too, was the annual dunk contest, which paired men’s and women’s basketball players together in attempts to showcase their skills. It was the part of the night that GW’s coaching staff watched nervously – when men’s basketball freshman forward Patricio Garino jumped over Armwood and women’s basketball senior Megan Nipe during his dunk, Tsipis said his first reaction was to look for his team’s trainer. But it was a crowd favorite, Smith’s tomahawk dunk, assisted by women’s basketball graduate student Sara Mostafa, that won the contest and brought his teammates to their feet.

“Me and Sara practiced our dunks after our basketball practices,” Smith said. “I was feeling good, the crowd was into it, and I was just excited.”

Though the night closed with the emcee announcing that the Washington Nationals were ahead in their playoff game, it was an event focused on the past and future of GW sports as a whole.

Smith said he was relaxed as he thinks about the upcoming season, unable to control the grin widening his face at the thought of getting back on the court.

And Tsipis, who will head the women’s basketball team for the first time this year, said the night’s welcome was the perfect way to segue into an inaugural season with his new team. The Colonials are ready for the year to begin, he added.

“I’ve been really pleased, from day one when I got here, how they’re close-knit and how they’re willing and want to be good,” Tsipis said. “I think there’s a big part of that is they’ve really bought in. They’ve bought in with my pedigree but also with the enthusiasm and passion that I have. That’s really what I want them to take out of it.”

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Pops Mensah-Bonsu, colonials invasion

Former men's basketball forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu laughs as he is announced as one of the judges for last year's Colonials Invasion dunk contest. Hatchet File Photo

Former GW basketball standout Pops Mensah-Bonsu told The Washington Post he wants to push the British national basketball team to new heights, like he did the University’s marquee athletics program.

Mensah-Bonsu, a member of the British men’s basketball Olympic squad, joins a team ranked No. 43 in FIBA’s world rankings that’s making just its second Olympics appearance. The Post reports that, as in the program’s one other appearance in the 1948 Olympics, the British men’s basketball team’s berth in the London Olympics “is a courtesy reservation for the host nation.” But Menash-Bonsu isn’t deterred.

“I think we hold the destiny of our sport in our hands,” Mensah-Bonsu told The Post. “To compete at a high level and play well, I think is going to reach out to some of the young generation and build up our grass roots. Then we can go from there.”

It’s an attitude Mensah-Bonsu also brought to the sidelines of the Smith Center. He joined GW in 2002, after the Colonials saw a first-round exit in the Atlantic 10 tournament the season before – sound familiar? – and a 12-win season.

By the time Mensah-Bonsu, a fan favorite with energetic performances and high-flying dunks, graduated, he’d helped engineer a program turn-around. His senior season, the Colonials earned their highest ranking since 1955 in the Associated Press poll, at No. 6, and its highest-ever seeding in the NCAA tournament, at No. 8.

“I came into GW one way and we left a totally different direction,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “I felt I grew in those four years as a player and a person and we created some sort of tradition there. Hopefully we gave the next teams something to work towards and showed them what could be accomplished.”

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Pops Mensah-Bonsu, colonials invasion

Former men's basketball forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu laughs as he is announced as one of the judges for this year's Colonials Invasion dunk contest. File photo

Standout former Colonial Pops Mensah-Bonsu will represent his country – and GW – at the 2012 London Olympics later this month after officially being named to Great Britain’s men’s basketball team.

He was one of 12 players named to the team, Great Britain’s first since the 1948 Olympics. Mensah-Bonsu currently plays for the Beskitas professional basketball team in Turkey, where he enjoyed significant success last season, including claiming the Turkish Cup in February.

“The experience at the holding camp in Loughborough has made us all realise that the Olympics are just around the corner,” Mensah-Bonsu told the Haringey Independent. “I am proud to be a member of this team and can’t wait to represent my country on the largest stage.”

Mensah-Bonsu was a fan-favorite at GW. Known for his skill at blocking shots and slamming back dunks, he averaged 12.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in his final season for the Colonials. GW went 26-2 overall that season and did not lose an Atlantic 10 game before falling  in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament to top seeded Duke.

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Pops Mensah-Bonsu, colonials invasion

Former men's basketball forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu laughs as he is announced as one of the judges for this year's Colonials Invasion dunk contest. | Hatchet File Photo

 

Correction appended

Former Colonials forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu was a major offensive catalyst for Turkey’s Besiktas professional basketball team’s Turkish Cup victory Saturday, defeating Banvit 79-74.

Mensah-Bonsu, who signed with Besiktas in December,  posted a crucial double-double in the semifinals of the tournament, netting 18 points and pulling down 19 boards against Galatasaray to reach the final. The forward continued his impressive play in the final, posting another double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

The Turkish Cup victory caps Mensah-Bonsu’s comeback from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for six months last year, relegating the Great Britain native to the sidelines while his national team competed at last year’s EuroBasket in Lithuania.

“I just want to thank GOD for everything he has done for me, this last year has been difficult but my faith was strong and always believed!!!,” Mensah-Bonsu tweeted Saturday.

BallinEurope.com calls the 28-year old forward “a key man in the British set-up with the Olympics just several months away.” Mensah-Bonsu, who returned to Foggy Bottom for this year’s Colonials Invasion, was a fan-favorite at GW. Known for his skill at blocking shots and slamming back dunks, he averaged 12.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in his final season for the Colonials. GW went 26-2 overall that season and did not lose an Atlantic 10 game before falling  in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament to top seeded Duke.

Mensah-Bonsu hasn’t lost his style, seen below slamming home a commanding dunk this season:

This article was updated on February 20, 2012 to reflect the following:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Besiktas defeated Turk Telekom at the Turkish Cup final. The team defeated Banvit.

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Pops Mensah-Bonsu, colonials invasion

Former men's basketball forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu laughs as he is announced as one of the judges for this year's Colonials Invasion dunk contest. File photo

Former Colonials standout forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu is set to sign a deal with Turkey’s Besiktas professional basketball team, MVP Magazine reports.

Besiktas currently leads the Turkish League, and is qualified for the second phase of Eurochallenge.

Mensah-Bonsu most recently competed for French club Asvel, but has been sidelined due to injury for the past six months. MVP Magazine reports that the forward has been in discussions with numerous teams recently, “both in the NBA and in Europe.”

The former Colonial was signed by the Dallas Mavericks in 2006 and spent time in the NBA Development League and the NBA, competing for Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors. He’s also spent time playing for different European teams, including Great Britian’s national team, Caja Laboral Baskonia, CSKA Moscow and Benetton Treviso.

Mensah-Bonsu, who returned to Foggy Bottom for this year’s Colonials Invasion, was a fan-favorite at GW. Known for his skill at blocking shots and slamming back dunks, he averaged 12.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in his final season for the Colonials. GW went 26-2 overall that season and did not lose an Atlantic 10 game before falling  in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament to top seeded Duke.

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Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 12:16 a.m.

Basketball invades Smith Center

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Daniel Wright.

Junior guard Lasan Kromah dougies off the court after slamming home a dunk in the first round of the Colonials Invasion dunk contest. Francis Rivera | Assistant Photo Editor

At 8:21 pm Friday night, when lights began flashing and fog filled the Smith Center, the raucous crowd rose to their feet as the men’s and women’s basketball teams stormed the court to officially usher in the 2011 to 2012 season.

Colonials Invasion, GW’s version of Midnight Madness, celebrated the official beginning of the basketball season, giving the fans a first look at the upcoming year. University President Steven Knapp kicked off the celebrations with a speech in which he declared the Smith Center as a “beacon in the Foggy Bottom community.”

Then the lights dimmed – and amid smoke, strobes and music, members of both teams were introduced to the crowd, running through lighted archways to line up on the court. It was the first glimpse at the 2011 to 2012 Colonials, and the fans cheered loudly as the players ran out.

Speaking to the crowd, women’s basketball head coach Mike Bozeman stressed the importance of the students’ support, highlighting the difficulty of the upcoming season’s schedule. He ran through a list of opponents, eliciting boos from the crowd at each name.

“We are committed to get us back [to the NCAA tournament], but we really need your support,” Bozeman said, adding after the crowd’s booing of opponents, “that’s exactly what we need to help us beat them.”

The crowd also got a first glimpse of new men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan with his team. He, too, eemphasized the role of student participation at games, stressing the importance of the home court advantage.

“It’s really important to get the students excited about the upcoming season,” Lonergan said. “Attendance has been down a little bit and really starts with the students. We need to win them back.”

After the cheer and dance teams pumped up the crowd with a performance to a medley of songs, the Colonials took the court in the debut of the Buff and Blue Game, in which members of the men’s and women’s teams, along with student representatives, competed in three events: a three-point shootout, a “hot shot” contest” and a slam-dunk contest. The Colonials were split into two: a “Buff” team and a “Blue” team, pitting the players against each other.

Sophomore forward Nemanja Mikic and senior forward Tara Booker represented the Buff team in the three-point contest, with Booker outshooting her teammate five to three in the 35 second time period. Senior guard Tony Taylor, a recent A-10 preseason first team pick,  and junior forward Megan Nipe drained twelve shots collectively, leading the Blue team to the victory in the first event of the evening.

The Blue team won the second event as well, in which the teams raced to see who could make a lay-up, free throw, three-pointer and half-court shot before the other team – but the main event of the evening was the slam-dunk contest. The panel of ten judges included former GW and NBA players Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Mike Hall, as well as former Colonial and WNBA player Kimberly Beck, and Chris Monroe, GW’s all-time leading scorer.

The fans got their first look at junior forward Isaiah Armwood during the dunk contest, but the Villanova transfer didn’t hit the mark on any of his dunks, failing to make it to the final round of the contest in his first appearance on the Smith Center’s court. Redshirt senior forward Jabari Edwards got a little help in his dunk, joining forces with junior guard Lasan Kromah to lift a running Danni Jackson off the court, sending the five-foot-three junior guard to the basket, where she swung for a minute after until Edwards helped her down. Afterwards, Jackson echoed her coach’s statements when asked what she was hoping for this season.

Junior guard Danni Jackson is helped to the rim by redshirt senior forward Jabari Edwards, left, and junior guard Lasan Kromah, right, during the dunk contest. | Francis Rivera, Assistant Photo Editor

“We need all of the fans’ support,” Jackson said. “Whatever the fans bring to the game is what we feed off of. We’re really excited to play.”

Kromah, sidelined all of last year due to injury, stole the show in his first time back on the court, posting a top-scoring 98 of 100 in the first round of the contest. Kromah grabbed the ball out of the hands of redshirt junior forward Brooke Wilson to perform a one-handed windmill dunk that brought the crowd and the judges to their feet.

Capping it off, Kromah dougied off the court to the cheers of the crowd, ensuring that no one would top his performance.

“It felt really good,” Kromah said of his dunk. “I was really anxious to step back on the court after being out for a year. I had to come up with something crazy.”

Senior Omar Faal, who a student representative in the contest, equally impressed, throwing down a 360 degree dunk that again elicited loud cheers from the crowd. But in the final round of the contest, it was once again Kromah who stole the show, posting a round-best 89 on a reverse dunk off the baseline of the basket, effectively sweeping the events for the Blue team.

The judges were impressed by his effort – Mensah-Bonsu said he had challenged Kromah to “do something to get me out of my seat,” but his head coach was a little more critical.

“I told Lasan I could have got a better count then he received tonight,” Lonergan said with a laugh, before conceding, “That first [dunk] was pretty impressive.”

With the official kickoff out of the way, the real preparation for the season begins, and coaches and players alike took the night to stress the hard work they’ll be putting into the upcoming season. Both Lonergan and Bozeman emphasized their desire to put bodies in the seats and a dominant squad on the court, determined to find success this year.

During his speech to the crowd, Bozeman pointed to the NCAA banners in the rafters, telling GW that he intended to bring his program back to those heights.

“We understand it’s a process,” Bozeman said. “Every meal gets cooked at some point, and its time for us to come out and give that meal.”

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Tony Taylor, men's basketball

Then-- junior guard Tony Taylor drives to the net, on his way to a team-high 20 points in GW's 78-71 win over Saint Joseph's last season. Taylor was named to the A-10 preseason first team Thursday. | File Photo

First-year men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan and senior guard Tony Taylor, the offensive cornerstone of the Colonials, agreed Thursday afternoon: The team still needs to get used to Lonergan’s new system.

Taylor and Lonergan spoke to the press in a teleconference after GW was picked eighth in the A-10 preseason poll, and Taylor was named to the Preseason First-Team All-Conference team earlier today, the first Colonial to be named to the preseason first team since then-seniors Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu earned the accolade at the beginning of the 2005 to 2006 season.

Taylor said the team doesn’t have a solid feeling for Lonergan’s system so far– but they like what they’ve seen.

“Not so much yet. We’re going to be starting practice Saturday and I think we’ll all get a good feeling of what’s going to happen,” Taylor said. “In the offense that we run, everyone has a chance to score, everyone has a chance to pass to the open man, create the shot for their teammates. It’s a good system we’re going to have to learn and make efficient.”

Lonergan agreed with his guard, adding that his staff of coaches have been hard at work to get ready for the official opening of the 2011 to 2012 season, which kicks off Saturday at midnight.

Pointing to the difficulty of GW’s schedule, recently rated as the second-toughest in the A-10 by ESPN.com, Lonergan cautioned that the team would see its ups and downs over the course of the upcoming season, but that he’s confident in the product that will be put forth on the court. The Colonials just need to get comfortable with his style of play, Lonergan said.

“I think it’s going to take a long time and we’re definitely going to try to simplify things especially at the beginning of the season. We’re still trying to figure out the strength of our team and weaknesses. We have to get a lot of practice time in,” Lonergan said. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work, and that’s what it’s been and I think our coaches and players have been working hard, but we’re definitely a long way from where we want to be. There’s going to be highs and lows.”

Lonergan’s system that will look to reduce GW’s reliance on Taylor, last season’s top-scorer for the Colonials. Thursday afternoon, Taylor was  basking in the glow of his first team selection, calling it a “good feeling.”

But Taylor still intends to take the court hungry. Reflecting on the disparity between his first team selection and Slamonline.com’s rating of Taylor as the ‘most underrated’ player in the A-10, it was clear he didn’t want to pay much attention to the talk.

“I feel like I have something to prove every time I step on the court regardless of if I’m the underrated player or the overrated player,” Taylor said. “I have to do what I have to do and that is to win.”

Reflecting on GW’s slot at eighth of 14 conference teams, Taylor admitted he was surprised by the ranking, pointing to GW’s high return rate on last year’s roster and junior guard Lasan Kromah’s impending return to the court as reasons he thought the Colonials should have been ranked higher. The team has something to prove, he said, but they also “like being the underdogs.”

Lonergan was less surprised by the program’s ranking. Last year’s victories weren’t always against teams with winning records, and GW’s struggle in postseason play in recent years influenced their spot, Lonergan said. He’s determined to turn this season around, stating that his two goals for the upcoming season are to make the A-10 tournament and then travel to Atlantic City.

The team’s roster presents its own challenge, Lonergan said. After former center Joseph Katuka’s graduation last spring, and the recent departure of redshirt sophomore center Daymon Warren from the program, there isn’t as much depth at that position as Lonergan would like. The lack of depth, Lonergan said, wasn’t entirely unexpected, but will require a strong rotation of his players to allow them as much rest as possible.

“I mean, Daymon didn’t really play much last year, so losing Joe Katuka was a bigger blow. But we definitely don’t have a lot of depth, but we were going to be a little undersized anyways, so it means we’re going to have to get a lot out of guys like [junior forward Dwayne] Smith, [junior forward David] Pellom, and some of our guys are really going to have to step it up this season,” Lonergan said. “I probably thought we had a little more depth, was inheriting a little more depth, and I like to play a lot of guys, so it’s something we’ll have to address through recruiting.”

Lonergan and Taylor said GW is ready to work hard and push itself to prove that it’s one of the more formidable teams in the Atlantic 10. Taylor said he and his teammates “have the whole season to prove what we are.”

“We’d like to get them back. Starting tomorrow night,” Lonergan said. ” We’re trying to get back to being one of the toughest places to play in the A-10.”

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A team of men’s basketball all-stars has emerged to fight crime and “spread the joy of basketball” in a fan fiction post by GW basketball blog ColonialHoops.com.

The GW All-Stars live together in the Fortress of Basketball-tude, a four-member squad that includes former Colonials forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who spent five seasons playing in the NBA before signing in France with the ASVEL Villeurbanne basketball program in February 2011.

They take on the League of Bad Guys, who are “dedicated to bring chaos and evil,” and stop the spread of healthy, active lifestyles.

Written by Don Pitz and illustrated by Seth Melton, the story follows a charity basketball game at the Smith Center that is infiltrated by the League–leaving it up to the All-Stars to save the day.

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Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010 7:58 p.m.

Former Colonial Pops Mensah-Bonsu may return to NBA

Former GW men’s basketball player Pops Mensah-Bonsu may be making a return to the NBA, Ridiculousupside.com, an SB Nation sports blog, is reporting.

Mensah-Bonsu was released by a Spanish team in the Euroleague, Caja Laboral, after the team discovered a knee injury that caused him to fail a team physical last weekend.

Mensah-Bonsu’s agent, John Greig, told the site that Mensah-Bonsu would sign with an NBA team within the week. Although Greig refused to comment on where specifically the former Colonial is headed,  he did say that the new team was not in the Northwest Division.

Mensah-Bonsu has bounced around professional basketball since being signed by the Dallas Mavericks after not being drafted in the 2006 NBA Draft, spending time playing in Europe as well as in the NBA Development League and the NBA, for the Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors.

Mensah-Bonsu shined over the summer on Great Britain’s national team in Eurobasket qualifiers, averaging 19.3 points and 13.5 rebounds over eight games.

The former GW forward was immensely popular during his time in Foggy Bottom, and was especially famous for his ability to block opponents shots as well as his ferocious dunks. He averaged 12.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 2005-06, his final season for the Colonials. GW went 26-2 overall that season and did not lose an Atlantic 10 game. The Colonials fell in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament to top seeded Duke.

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