April 23, 2009
Santa Clara sophomore Nate Mensah, a second year walk-on on the men's basketball team, played in eight games last season. The Salt Lake City native spoke earlier this week about what he is working on, why he likes the spring (can you say Sullivan Aquatic Center on a sunny day!?) and what he is looking for next season. All those answers and more follow.
SCU: What's your nickname? Why?
NM: Nasty Nate. Salt Lake Nate. Either one or both of them. I don't really know how they came about - I guess Nasty Nate has a nice ring to it.
SCU: How did you get to Santa Clara from Utah?
NM: I love Utah, but I always wanted to leave Utah to find something more exciting. So when I got the chance to leave, I took it. I also looked at Portland, the Air Force Academy and Virginia Tech. I picked Santa Clara for its combination of location, academics and a chance to continue to play basketball.
SCU: What sports did you play growing up?
NM: I started with soccer in kindergarten. And then I moved to basketball. I ran a little track, but I gave it all up for basketball in high school. In track, I competed in the 200m, 400m and the high jump. The highest I ever jumped was 6'2 in ninth grade. That sounds good, but the 2008 Olympic champion, Andrey Silvnov of Russia, jumped like almost 7' 8!
SCU: What do you look forward to most this spring?
NM: The pool, the babes out there. Oh, you mean basketball? Getting stronger. Working with Joe Siara, our strength coach. I am also doing a lot of shooting in my workouts.
SCU: What are you working on during individuals?
NM: Ball handling. Getting shots up on the move. I normally work out with Kevin Foster. I like working out with him because he is so good so he pushes me to keep up with him. I also try to compete with him and practicing against someone that good is good for my game. He is my roommate so we have a lot of friendly competition on who wins each day.
SCU: Free throws?
NM: Yeah, I work on them a little bit.
SCU: You are good enough that you don't have to practice them?
NM: I am pretty solid from the line (laughs).
SCU: Have you thought about next year at all yet? What game are you looking most forward to?
NM: There aren't many games that I am looking forward to - like I can't wait. I like playing at home with the fans. We have 18 games at home this year. Winning on the road is the best! When it's just the team and not a lot of supporters it always feels good to win on the road. Like last year when we won at Montana. We won a close game there and San Diego was a big win. Winning the Cable Car Classic again would be big.
SCU: Did you watch the NCAA Tournament?
NM: I watched some of it, mostly at home when I could see it on my family's 62 inch HD plasma screen. New addition since I have been at school. For sure would have liked to have that when I lived there.
SCU: Did you pick the four teams that made the Final Four?
NM: My picks let me down big time. I had UNC, Louisville, UCONN and Pitt with Louisville winning it all.
SCU: Who has impressed you?
NM: I was impressed by Michigan State, the way they played as a team. They were kind of slept on by most people. But obviously North Carolina is impressive because they are so good. Still not a fan of Tyler Hansbrough, but they are good. I can't decide if the teams we play I want to win in the tournament so we look better or I want them to lose because I dislike them so much.
SCU: Have you learned anything by watching the NCAA Tournament?
NM: I really noticed the intensity of play teams have. The way everyone plays hard and supports each other. I think that is the level we need to be at and we are working on that.
SCU: You are a good student. What is your major and what are your plans after graduation?
NM: I earned a 4.0 in Fall, 2008 and then I followed up with a 3.5 in the Winter Quarter, which was really hard because it was in the middle of the season. A shout out to our man Jason Stock, who works with us in Academics. He does a good job keeping everyone focused on staying up with their classwork.
My major is Finance with an Economics minor. I hope to go to graduate school and then get a good job.
SCU: Knowing what you have coming back on the team and what you have coming to Santa Clara next year, how excited are you for October 15 to get here?
NM: I am always excited for the first day of practice to have everyone officially together and ready for the official start of business. This spring everyone has been working really hard and improving. You can see those improvements already. That's good for when the incoming players get here so they will see how hard we are working to improve and hopefully that will rub off on them.
SCU: As a walk-on, what do you feel like your most important role is on the team?
NM: Making sure I support everyone all the time. Trying to lead by example. Staying enthusiastic and make sure we are all doing things the right way all the time. It's the little things that matter because they add up to be big things.
My job in practice is to be the other team's best player and get buckets so we can get used to guarding that player on the opposing team. A lot of buckets!
SCU: Is it hard to sit on the bench during games?
NM: It's hard because obviously I want to be out on the court, who wouldn't want to be playing, but I enjoy being a part of the team and supporting the guys on the court. I want to stay hyped during games to bring them energy. I am really glad I am a part of this team. Everyone on the team really likes each other and we look forward to the new guys coming in and being a part of this family. We are a family.