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Pops Mensah-Bonsu Holds Up The MVP Trophy
The NBA D-League hit the big time on Saturday night with the inaugural Gillette D-League All-Star Game in association with 24 Hour Fitness. After a tightly contested first half, the Eastern Division pulled away to defeat the Western Division by a 114-100 in front of a capacity crowd of fans and NBA scouts.
There was plenty of talent on the floor on Center Court at NBA Jam Session, but the individual who stood out among the others was Fort Worth Flyers forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu. The rookie who is on assignment from the Dallas Mavericks dominated the proceedings with 30 points on 11-of-13 shooting and seven rebounds to earn the first D-League All-Star Game MVP Award.
Mensah-Bonsu, the D-League's leading rebounder at 11.1 per game, had just returned to Fort Worth for the second time this season on Friday night. He was looking forward to the game as an opportunity to shake off some rust after seeing limited playing time in the NBA.
"I came from Houston a couple of days ago and played with the Flyers in Austin last night," said Mensah-Bonsu shortly after receiving his MVP trophy. "Coming from the Mavericks where I don't get that much time, I had to find a way to get my rhythm back. I didn't play that well last night, so I knew I would get the chance to make up for it tonight. I just tried to come out and play as hard as I could, which is the only way I know how to play."
Mensah-Bonsu would not have been eligible to play if he was back with the Mavericks, so he expressed how happy he was to particpate in the event.
"I'm just glad I'm here. When they said that I made the team, I was back with the Mavericks and I told people that I really wanted to play and be a part of this," said Mensah-Bonsu. "It isn't even really about being the MVP, it's just about being with these great players, and being recognized as one of the best in the D-League, so I'm just happy to be here."
Mensah-Bonsu's Flyers teammate Luke Schenscher also enjoyed a solid game after being named to the team as a replacement player. The 7-1 center scored 15 points and added 6 rebounds for the victorious East team.
"I was happy with the way I played," said Schenscher. "I wanted to show that I deserved to be here after being named to the team so I'm very happy with the way it went."
With the league's first All-Star game in the history books, the D-League players were thrilled about having the chance to be a part of All-Star Weekend and show their talents on the basketball court.
"As far as basketball we just wanted to come out here and have fun," said Tulsa 66ers guard Will Conroy. "You don't get that much to prove with the substitution patterns, you just want to keep the game kind of sharp and make sure you sell some tickets for next year so the fans want to come back again."
Bakersfield Jam point guard Gerry McNamara, who was named to the team less than a day earlier as an injury replacement, also looked at the game as a positive experience even though his team came up short.
"It was tough for me because I was playing off guard, that's not my natural position," said McNamara, who was held to only two points. "The bottom line is to have fun, we would have liked to win the game, but if you get a chance to play with some great players than it's all worth it."