By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO
A George Washington University basketball icon from England is back in DC to run the “Go-Go.” Pops Mensah-Bonsu was named first general manager in the history of the Capital City Go-Go, who will be the Washington Wizards NBA G-League affiliate when their inaugural season tips off later this fall.
The G-League is the NBA’s official developmental league and the Go-Go will be its 27th team. Monumental Sports and Entertainment Group, the parent company of the Wizards and Mystics, owns the team.
G-League teams are pro basketball’s version of the minor leagues in baseball where organizations develop talent to play for their team or to be offered in trade to other clubs. Each game is an audition as players compete against other pros who are looking for spots on their affiliate team’s roster or to impress another NBA franchise.
The league has also built a reputation for cultivating a new group of coaches, scouts and basketball executives who have made a name for themselves before moving to the next level. Mensah-Bonsu gets this opportunity after working as a scout for the San Antonio Spurs, which is regarded as one of the top front offices.
This is a chance for Mensah-Bonsu to develop his skills as a general manager. He will build their roster and run the day to day operations of the franchise while working in conjunction with the Wizards to keep a pool of players ready for the call up in the event of injuries or trades. His scouting acumen will be critical as Washington tries to find unknown players who can contribute for a franchise that is facing the NBA luxury tax threshold. The London native, who previously worked as an international liaison for the NBA Players Association, could also help the Wizards improve their overseas organizational talent pool.
If there is one executive in the G-League who can identify with the minor league basketball experience its Mensah-Bonsu. After not being drafted following his senior year at George Washington in 2006, he signed with the Dallas Mavericks but played for most of the season with the Fort Wayne Flyers of what was then known as the NBA D-League. He played for five NBA teams – Dallas, Houston, Toronto, New Orleans, and San Antonio – over four seasons before heading overseas to play and then retiring in 2015.
“I know what the players are going through when they play in this league,” Mensah-Bonsu told the AFRO. “My job is to put them in position to help thoroughly develop them as players and men as they transition to the business of pro basketball.”
Mensah-Bonsu was a member of one of the most decorated eras of in George Washington’s basketball history. The Colonials won three consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference championships earning NCAA Tournament bids in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Mensa-Bonsu had the biggest personality of them all and ultimately became the face of Foggy Bottom hoops for that era.
“On a team that was treated like rock stars on campus his was the biggest personality,” said Bowie State head coach, Darrell Brooks who coached for Karl Hobbs at George Washington during Mensah-Bonsu’s career. “He had a firm belief in how hard he had to work to get better. His head was always level. He was a great kid to coach.”
“I knew Pops would be successful in whatever he chose to pursue in life.”