Kojo enjoying hometown stop
While many players in the Dairylea Dunkers Championship have had a short break over the last week, Kojo Mensah-Bonsu had no such rest. He went first to the NEC Arena in Birmingham and then travelled to Budapest for two crunch European Championship semi-final round games with England, a stage on which he enjoys participating.
“It’s a great feeling to be honoured,” he explained. “To be given the opportunity to represent your country as one of the better players within a nation, especially a nation like England. It’s definitely something that I’m proud of and I try to give 100% each time.”
Talking specifically about the recent games, he added, “In the last few tours that we have had, we have been playing exceptionally well and we have come up with some great results. We felt that we could have done that in both the Croatia game and the Hungary game, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.
“Against Hungary, we had the opportunity to win and we missed a foul shot and we ended up tied as the buzzer went. In overtime, we just used up too much juice and unfortunately we just couldn’t make it happen.”
Although disappointing the results might be, Kojo explains the difficulty that the national team face. “It is very tough to play on the road in Europe,” he explained. “In the few games prior to this we had been winning, but the main thing was just trying to gel together with the guys on the team, because we have minimal time to work together.
“It just seems like every time we come together it is a new bunch of guys. There are a lot of new younger guys and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of guys in between – there are guys in their 30’s and then guys in their early 20’s, but no one in between.
"Once we can keep the same group of guys and get some continuity as far as getting to know one another, then I think we will do a lot better in the forthcoming games in November and next February. In the forthcoming games, we have three games at home and I feel we will perform even better in those and get some good result to go with that.”
Kojo Mensah-Bonsu has earned more recognition in this country with his inclusion in the England squad, but that has increased still further since he signed for the adidas London Leopards in January, after what was widely reported as a tug-of-war battle between Leopards and Bullets.
Signing for the Leopards also got Kojo away from Magic M7 in Sweden. Although playing for Magic Johnson’s team had its ups, Kojo explains the downs it had too, which was one of the reasons he looked for a club in Britain, where the game has some stability.
“As far as the playing went, it was great - the team was winning, we were first in the league - but as far as management went, it left a lot to be desired. They were struggling financially and there were guys there who hadn’t been paid for a couple of months. They had a hard time getting me my money and that wasn’t a situation that I felt comfortable with.”
So he moved on and Magic M7’s loss was the Leopards gain. But, where did it all begin? For the name Kojo Mensah-Bonsu, while not easy to forget, has only been uttered in recent times.
Kojo explains, “At the age of 15 or 16 I decided to play basketball. I had been playing a lot of soccer and in fact I had a lot of dreams to play professional soccer. One day I was playing soccer at the park in Tottenham, where I grew up, when some guys needed some players on the basketball court - I started playing and I haven’t stopped since.
“That same year I went to play for Brixton Topcats at under-19 level. I played there for one year and then I went out to a camp in New Jersey the following summer. Luckily I got into a high school in Washington DC and then I went to a junior college for two years before going to Washington State University.”
Kojo’s time in the States was a happy time for him, but rather than be nostalgic, he is just concentrating on the present, which involves the Leopards push for the play-offs. Some people might have already written them off, but Kojo is not one of them.
“I want to get to the play-offs. We are in fifth place right now and the top four go from the Southern Conference, so it is definitely something that is attainable – we just have to make a little run and make a few things happen.”
However Leopards fan should enjoy Bonsu while they can. The player himself admits that he is ready to look across the Channel again next year to further his career. Another challenge but one which he is surely ready for.
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