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Page last updated at 20:19 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 21:19 UK

Pops return strengthens GB hopes

EUROBASKET 2009, Poland, 7-20 September
GB matches: 7 September v Slovenia (1715 BST); 8 September v Spain (2000 BST); 9 September v Serbia (2015 BST)
Coverage: GB games live on Red Button and BBC Sport website (UK only)

Pops Mensah-Bonsu
Mensah-Bonsu is known for his athleticism

Londoner Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who recently agreed a deal with the NBA's Houston Rockets, has been cleared to play for GB in the EuroBasket finals.

The 6ft 9in Mensah-Bonsu, 25, averaged 12.2 points and 10 rebounds per game in last summer's qualifiers.

Because he had not formally signed a contract with Houston, GB were forced to insure him independently.

His return will come as a boost to a team missing star player Luol Deng and with several players injured or ill.

After three defeats at last weekend's tournament in Turkey, GB head coach Chris Finch told BBC Sport, "The first thing we've got to do is try and get healthy."

However, that policy has faced several challenges since the team returned from Ankara.

Scottish forward Kieron Achara's place in Poland was put in doubt when an MRI scan was ordered on his injured groin.

Adding him is a boost - it keeps on strengthening the front line

GB coach Chris Finch

Achara suited up for just one of the games in Ankara, but took no active part as head coach Chris Finch rested him as a precaution.

In addition, the 48-hour stomach complaint that kept forward Joel Freeland out of action in the last two games in Ankara has since claimed several more victims.

Mensah-Bonsu, renowned for his athleticism, played in all 13 of GB's games in their summer campaign last year, when the team also had to fund additional insurance to ensure Deng took part.

The cost, the BBC understands, will be somewhere in the region of £40,000, depending on how many games Mensah-Bonsu plays in Poland. GB could play as few as three and as many as nine games in the EuroBasket finals.

"The cost varies, depending on where we exit the tournament," said GB performance director Chris Spice. "That's been the difficult part for us, bartering to get a rebate clause put in."

Somewhat ironically, the team is sponsored this season by an insurance company.

"We're really excited to finally have Pops with us," said Finch. "Adding him is a boost - it keeps on strengthening the front line. The challenge now is to make sure we get him in as soon as possible."

606: DEBATE

Mensah-Bonsu played for both San Antonio and Toronto on short-term NBA contracts last season after leaving Spain's Joventut Badalona early in the season.

He will add scoring and rebounding to a team that has come up short against opponents in both those departments in nine warm-up matches this summer.

Their first finals game in Poland comes on 7 September, against Slovenia in Warsaw, with games against Spain and Serbia, also in the Polish capital, on the following two days.

GB will play at least three more games if they finish in the top three in their group.



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see also
Turkey too strong for weakened GB
29 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB 'embarrassing' in latest loss
28 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB gift last-gasp win to Latvia
26 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Great Britain clinch Slovenia win
21 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Lithuania too strong for GB men
20 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB suffer heavy defeat to Spain
19 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB positive despite defeats
17 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Wayward GB suffer third reverse
16 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Tough Turkey hand GB second loss
15 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Weakened GB suffer opening defeat
14 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB team hit by more withdrawals
13 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB begin tough summer
13 Aug 09 |  Basketball
In-depth interview - Luol Deng
12 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB without star NBA duo for Euros
27 Jul 09 |  Basketball


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