When the GW men’s basketball team ended its season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last weekend, junior forwards Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu expressed optimism that the Colonials would only get better next year. But there is a chance that neither player will be a part of the 2005-06 team, as both players told The Hatchet last week that they have declared for the upcoming NBA Draft.
GW head coach Karl Hobbs confirmed Saturday that Hall and Mensah-Bonsu will consider entering the professional draft, which will be held on June 25. Both players said they have not hired an agent – and do not plan to do so – which leaves the door open for a return to GW for their respective senior seasons.
“Mike Hall will submit his name into the draft and Pops will submit his name as well,” Hobbs said via cell phone. “It’s a family decision. All I can do is advise those guys.”
NCAA and NBA rules state that collegiate players have until six days before the draft to withdraw and remain eligible for the upcoming college basketball season. In the past, many players who declared for the draft out of high school or as college underclassmen have withdrawn their names. In 2003, 27 out of 73 early entries (which includes foreign born players) dropped out of the draft, opting to go to college or return to school. Last year, 53 out of 93 early entries dropped out.
Hobbs, who coached several current NBA players as an assistant at the University of Connecticut, declined to comment on the likelihood of Hall and Mensah-Bonsu making an NBA team or returning to GW next year.
“I’m supportive,” Hobbs said of his players’ decisions. “But it doesn’t necessarily mean I agree or disagree.”
“That’s a family decision that they have made,” he added. “My thing is to give them advice. They’ve made those decisions. The program will go on. That’s part of a successful program. You’re going to have guys go to the NBA.”
This season, Mensah-Bonsu averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game and Hall averaged 10.6 points and 8 rebounds per game. Just a few weeks after helping lead the Colonials to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999, both players will attempt to make the jump to the pros.
“I’m likening this to our season this year,” Hall said. “We snuck in to the tournament and we showed we could play with the elite. I think I can sneak in and get a spot on (an NBA) team.”
But Hall and Mensah-Bonsu both said they were not ruling out returning for next season.
“We have a chance to be a top 10 team in the country next year,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “I don’t know why I wouldn’t want to come back.”
“I would never rule out that possibility,” Hall said of returning.
Hall, a Chicago native, said his summer workouts have helped his game tremendously, preparing him for a potential professional career. He worked specifically with trainer Tim Glover, who has worked with the likes of NBA players Antoine Walker and Quentin Richardson.
Conveniently for Hall, a pre-draft workout camp will be held in Chicago, where his family lives. Invitations to the camps are traditionally sent out after the NCAA Tournament ends.
“(Hall) doesn’t have to worry about paying for hotels,” GW Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said. “It seems to make sense to me.”
The important thing, he added, is that the players do not hire an agent, which should not be an issue, he said. Both have not done so. The GW AD, who has seen a few Colonials stars leave as underclassmen over the years, said the move was not really a shocker to him.
“Jameer Nelson did it,” Kvancz said of the former St. Joseph’s point guard who now plays for the Orlando Magic. “It’s not like it’s unheard of.”
Nelson attended pre-draft workouts after his junior season in the summer of 2003 but returned for his spectacular senior year in ’03-’04 before going pro the year after.
The last GW player to enter the draft before graduating was SirValiant Brown, a slashing scorer who was not selected in the draft after his sophomore season in 2001. He never played in the NBA.
Before Brown, center Yinka Dare left after his sophomore season in 1994 – the New Jersey Nets made him a lottery pick, but his NBA career ended after four seasons. Former guard Chris Monroe spent time in the Washington Wizards’ camp in the summer of 2003 before being cut.
When asked if he was concerned about the prospect of going un-drafted or fizzling out like some former GW players, Hall seemed a bit taken aback.
“I’m not really sure how to answer that question,” Hall said. “But I think coach Hobbs has brought out the best in me … I mean I’m pretty much coming in with the mindset that I’m the underdog. I know I’m not a big name guy, but I feel like my talent can make up for that.”
A big part of the pre-draft workouts, Mensah-Bonsu said, is to gauge the competition. Both players sounded confident in their abilities to hang with the best.
“It’s just to see how I fare against some of the better players in the world,” Mensah-Bonsu said of the pre-draft workouts.
Senior guard T.J. Thompson is another GW player with professional aspirations. He could not be reached for comment last week.
-Will Dempster contributed to this report.