Basketball is traditionally a sport that is not as popular in the UK and Ghana compared to football. However in this month’s profile we celebrate a British born Ghanaian who has achieved worldwide success as a professional player in a short space of time.
Nana Papa Yaw Dwene “Pops” Mensah-Bonsu is the young man I speak of. In the Ghanaian language Twi, Mensah-Bonsu’s name means King (Nana) Father (Papa) Thursday Born (Yaw) Three (Mensah) Whale (Bonsu). Thus he often goes by the nickname “King Killer Whale” and he has certainly embodied that on the basketball court, here’s his story…
He was born in Edmonton, North London and after starting out as a junior at the English Basketball League club Hackney White Heat, Mensah-Bonsu moved to the USA. He spent his sophomore year of high school playing at the Hun School of Princeton in Princeton, New Jersey, and then transferred to St. Augustine College Preparatory School in Richland, New Jersey. He majored in psychology at the George Washington University, where he played power forward and center.
He was second team all-conference in 2004–05 and averaged around 15 points per game.Mensah-Bonsu initially signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks, and played for the Fort Worth Flyers, the NBA D-League affiliate of the Mavericks. He made the D-League All Star Team and was MVP of the game, with 30 points and 7 rebounds.Mensah-Bonsu was recalled to the Mavericks on 8 February 2007. He scored his first NBA points against the Atlanta Hawks.
He started his professional career in February 2009, when he began playing with the Austin Toros, the San Antonio Spurs NBA D-League affiliate. In his eight games with the Toros, Mensah-Bonsu averaged 26.6 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. On 25 February, he signed a 10 day contract with the San Antonio Spurs. In March 2009, the Toronto Raptors picked up Mensah-Bonsu, giving him a guaranteed contract until the end of the season. Pops made his debut with the Raptors the same day, against the Miami Heat, posting 4 points and 10 rebounds. He became a fan favorite with the Raptors.
On 21 August 2009, Mensah-Bonsu verbally agreed to a deal to join the Houston Rockets for the 2009-10 season to provide frontcourt depth after the injury to Yao Ming. The signing was made official on 3 September 2009. On 13 November Mensah-Bonsu was released from his Houston Rockets contract, and on 17 November he re-signed with the Toronto Raptors .On January 5, 2010, he was released by the Raptors to make room for their returning injured reserves]and signed with PBC CSKA Moscow.
He returned to the NBA, where he played for the New Orleans Hornets, but was released in January 2011. On February 17, 2011, he signed a contract with the French team ASVEL Villeurbanne until the end of the season.
At the age of only 27 Pops Mensah-Bonsu has gone from the amateur college leagues to scaling the heights of the NBA playing some of its best teams as well as playing in leagues in Italy, Russia and France. After enjoying such a varied career in such a short space of time he should serve as an inspiration for any budding young players both in the UK and Ghana. So this month “King Killer whale” we salute you!
Ben Jk Anim-Antwi