Former Haringey youth basketball stars return to the capital for the Olympics
PUBLISHED: 16:52 04 July 2012 | UPDATED: 17:06 04 July 2012
From the London Youth Games to the London Olympics – Drew Sullivan and Pops Mensah-Bonsu have come a long way since their formative years on the court.
Both men represented Haringey’s basketball team during their adolescence, taking on other boroughs in the capital’s annual Youth Games.
The pair eventually departed for America, with Sullivan going on to play in Spain, Germany, Russia and Cyprus.
The captain of Great Britain’s men’s team, the 32-year-old has been playing in England since 2010, and is currently contracted to the Leicester Riders.
Meanwhile 28-year-old Mensah-Bonsu - who grew up in Tottenham and attended St Thomas More School in Wood Green - has played 61 times in the American NBA for the likes of Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors, and now represents the Turkish outfit Besiktas Milangaz.
But the pair were back in London on Sunday as Team GB landed at Heathrow airport following a preparation camp in Houston, Texas – and the rapturous reception they received has only increased the anticipation ahead of the Games.
“It was awesome to come through and see all the fans waiting for us,” said Mensah-Bonsu, who started out as a junior at the Hackney White Heat club. “It is a real lift for the side to know how big the home support is for us.
“I can’t wait to play some games at home now that we have had a taste of the support we can expect from our fans this year.”
Sullivan, a former 100m and 200m athlete who competed at schools level in Haringey and started playing basketball with the Islington White Heat club in the 1990s, added: “It’s starting to hit home how close we are to the Olympics – it’s real now.”
Team GB’s warm-up games in Houston were hardly encouraging, as they suffered defeats in all of their five games against Nigeria, Lithuania, Russia and then Russia and Lithuania again.
“I was disappointed with my play personally against Lithuania, it was a major reason why we couldn’t get the job done,” said Mensah-Bonsu, who
“I shot 50 per cent from the free throw line and those stats are unacceptable for a player of my calibre. I joined the training camp a little late and I’m still integrating after a tough season in Turkey.
“The last two games, we had them – we just needed to make the right plays at the right time and that will come.”
Sullivan said: “We really missed Pops last year [at the Olympic trials] for the energy and leadership he brings.
“Having him back firing is like having a whole new player and it’s exciting to have our best players all fit and all on the court.
“Every year the team gets better and better. Our core groups has been together for four or five years now.”
Great Britain will spend the next few days at Team GB’s training camp in Loughborough, and will then continue their schedule of warm-up games when they take on France this weekend.