The GW men’s basketball team, which is one game away from going undefeated in conference play, will likely have to go through the Atlantic 10 Tournament without its most-heralded player.
Senior Pops Mensah-Bonsu had successful surgery on his meniscus in Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday, and began rehabilitation that day. He returned to D.C. Wednesday and may be ready for the NCAA Tournament, which begins no earlier than March 16.
Assistant basketball coach Roland Houston accompanied Mensah-Bonsu for the examination and operation by James Andrews, a renowned orthopedic surgeon.
“In consultation with (GW team physician) Dr. Kenneth Fine, we came to the mutual agreement that an arthroscopic procedure was imminent,” Andrews said in a Tuesday news release. “I arthroscoped Pops this morning and removed a small portion of cartilage from the inner side of his left knee (medial meniscus). We anticipate a rapid rehab and full recovery, and we expect he will be ready for the NCAA Tournament.”
The extent of Mensah-Bonsu’s injury was unclear from the results of the MRI, which was examined by Fine, said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, in an interview Tuesday.
Fine and Andrews were not available for further comment. Fairfax, Va., orthopedic surgeon Robert Nirschl said it may be tough for Mensah-Bonsu to get back to his previous playing condition.
“The player may not play up to usual expectations,” Nirschl said in a phone interview last week.
It has not been determined if Mensah-Bonsu will travel to Cincinnati to the Atlantic 10 Tournament, which begins March 8. The No. 6/7 Colonials (ESPN/Associated Press) have a first-round bye and will play March 9.
With a win Saturday, the Colonials will complete an undefeated regular season for the first time in program history. The last time a team went undefeated in the A-10 was the 2003-2004 Saint Joseph’s squad. Prior to the Hawks, the 1983-1984 and 1987-1988 Temple squads went unbeaten in the conference.
GW’s last road test of the season came Wednesday against St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y. The Bonnies (8-18, 2-12 A-10) are the cellar dwellers of the A-10, but gave GW a run for their money before losing 89-78 to the Colonials (25-1, 15-0 A-10).
Wednesday’s victory gives GW the most wins in school history. The Colonials, who feature a balanced attack in every game, had four players with 15 or more points. Senior Omar Williams dropped 18 points, sophomore Maureece Rice had 16 (including four three-pointers), and junior Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock and senior Mike Hall had 15 apiece. Williams (10 rebounds), Hall (11) and Pinnock (12) all had double-doubles.
“When we needed to make stops we got the stops,” Hobbs told WMET radio after the game. “When we needed the free throws, we got free throws.”
To complete only the fourth undefeated conference record in A-10 history, the Colonials will have to beat Charlotte Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Smith Center. For GW, Charlotte represents one of the most formidable challenges in the A-10. On Jan. 21, the Colonials topped the 49ers in North Carolina, 83-69. Rice dropped a career-high 21 points in the contest and Pinnock had 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Mensah-Bonsu only had 10 points in his 21-minute effort, Jan. 21 but the most important aspect of the game was his defensive effort against Curtis Withers. The standout forward was relegated to 9 points and 15 rebounds.
For the Colonials, keeping an eye on Withers may be the difference in the game, but Charlotte’s guard play is also dangerous. Leemire Goldwire had 10 points while D’Angelo Alexander poured in 23 points in the loss. Goldwire and Marcus Bennett had three three-pointers, contributing to the team’s 11.