Pops Is Back, And This Time To Stay

20 November 2013

BASKETBALL IN EUROPE

Pops Mensah-Bonsu of Besiktas Milangaz - EuroChallenge Final Four 2012 MVP
The last time that Pops Mensah-Bonsu played in Turkey he won the EuroChallenge and Turkish domestic league

Turkish champions Galatasaray Liv Hospital have had precious few reasons for celebration so far in the new season, but the arrival of Great Britain international Pops Mensah-Bonsu to their team is one of them.

The London-born big man started the season with the Washington Wizards in the NBA but was tabbed a deal with Galatasaray in late October to replace the injured Nathan Jawai, making an immediate impact.

Mensah-Bonsu has looked in great shape during his first games in the uniform of the Istanbul powerhouse and is the second-leading rebounder in the Euroleague with 11 boards to go with his 14.7 points on average.

The current form of the EuroChallenge 2012 Final Four MVP is impressive considering that he had been sidelined because of a shoulder injury for about eight months after the London Olympics and only returned to action last spring, first with Cajasol Sevilla and then with EA7 Armani Milano.

Galatasary, who have been plagued by a seemingly endless series of injuries and lost five games between the domestic BEKO TBL and the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, are facing a potentially crucial clash with Italian champions Montepaschi Siena on Thursday night.

fibaeurope.com caught up with the Londoner shortly after his return to Europe and discussed his current club's situation and Team GB.

Pops, you are back in Europe and playing on a team coached by Ergin Ataman once again, is that a coincidence?
No, of course not, I am familiar with the coach and I've played with or against most of the guys on the team so it was an easy situation for me when they told me they wanted to sign me. It was a no-brainer, I came and fitted into the team immediately. I think that with a few more games and a few more practices we will be good.

When you last played in Turkey in 2012, with Besiktas, you won the EuroChallenge and Turkish league titles and MVP honours in both competitions, is there something special about the country?
I know the league, the coaches and the players that I have there, I had success there before so I know what it takes to win in that country. I really felt we have a good Euroleague team too, and I thought that my addition would be able to help them. Now we have to go back to the drawing board and we will play better next time.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Great Britain)
Pops Mensah-Bonsu sat out the national team summer but has not ruled out pulling on a Great Britain vest in the future

As someone who's helped a Turkish club conquer a European title, what do you think is the reason that Galatasaray or other sides from the country are yet to taste success in the Euroleague?
The Euroleague is the highest level, the players are bigger, stronger and more athletic. Every team can win a game, so every night you have to make sure you come out and play your best game. When you go to somebody's home gym you have to play hard, play physical, or you will get beaten. I really think we have the talent and the team to do so, it's just really getting over that hump but I am confident that one of the [Turkish] teams, if not us, can do it.

You are sort of a basketball globetrotter, never staying in one place for long, playing in several countries and for numerous clubs both here and in the USA. Did your professional career take this course by design or by accident?
It just happens sometimes like that. Now that I am 30, I will probably look to stay in one place and finish my career in one place, but normally I just tried to go to the best situation and if sometimes it is in another place, then that's the case. But now that I am 30 and I have a family I want to slow down a bit and not move around as much. But it has been by coincidence, not design.

The national team has been one of the staples in your career, but last summer you decided during preparations not to play at EuroBasket 2013. Have we seen the last of you in a GB vest?
No, I'd decided from the beginning that I was not going to play in the summer. Like I said, I am 30 now and I had to listen to my body and take it slow. For the last six-to-seven years I had been playing with the national team and playing all the way till June so I had to make sure I let my body recover at this point. So that was my decision, but I will probably play again the next couple of years.

Did you watch Great Britain's games in Slovenia?
I saw the guys play and they played really well, really very well. So hopefully when I come back we will be able to build on that and play better too.

Was a golden opportunity for Great Britain to make it to the Second Round lost?
Yes, I think so. But I felt like that if I wanted to play in the years to come, I had to listen to my body and take it slow. You are right though, for sure.

 


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