Pops shows power in defence in qualifiers
By Phil Ravitz POPS Mensah-Bonsu, the former Hackney White Heat young player, who went on to play in the USA with the Dallas Mavericks, had a mixed start to his career as a Great Britain international. Drafted in by the GB management team, that includes f
By Phil Ravitz
POPS Mensah-Bonsu, the former Hackney White Heat young player, who went on to play in the USA with the Dallas Mavericks, had a mixed start to his career as a Great Britain international.
Drafted in by the GB management team, that includes former Hackney-based London United coach Tony Garbelotto, Mensah-Bonsu got his international career back on track on Sunday evening, by giving a top defensive performance as GB recorded their first EuroBasket (European Championships) qualifying victory over the Czech Republic at the O2 Arena.
The GB side are determined to qualify for the Euro Championship finals, to prove their worth as Olympic hosts in 2012. They played Bosnia-Herzegovina last night (Wednesday) in Birmingham.
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The former Hackney youngster was the game's major defensive force in a 87-68 victory, scoring 13 points with 16 rebounds.
But matters didn't go so well for the 6ft 9 in guard last midweek, when the GB side lost their opening qualifier, a close affair in Israel 102-92.
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In a very tight finish, in a game in which GB welcomed back Luol Deng, the star player from the Chicago Bears, back to their ranks, after a dispute over the Sudanese born star's medical insurance. The GB association have had to stump up a premium of £230,000 to make the top-scoring forward available.
Mensah-Bonsu and Deng were both fouled out in overtime as Israel levelled with two free throws with just five seconds left.
In overtime, they made the numerical advantage tell to record a victory that assistant-coach Garbelotto said was hard to take: "We were devastated to lose. We let a match slip that we shouldn't,'' he said.
Ironically, it had been Mensah-Bonsu who had taken over Deng's mantle for GB's preparation matches before the Euro qualifiers.
But now Mensah-Bonsu is looking forward to the pair's partnership. "With Luol back it takes a load off me and makes my job easier.'' says the ex-Hackney product.
The 24-year-old had top scored for GB in Turkey
.He has also signed a one year contract to play in Spain this season, joining the Badalona club, after a spell in Italy.