April 15, 2011

Mensah Grateful for his Experience with Santa Clara Basketball

Nate Mensah (NM) walked onto the Santa Clara University basketball team four years ago as a freshman.  Looking back on his career with the Broncos Mensah is proud he stuck with basketball through all the ups and downs – gaining valuable skills, experiences and friendships.

SCB: Can you believe your senior year is over?

NM: It's hard to believe it is over, it went by really fast. It is crazy to think a few years ago I was just a freshman and now it is all done.

SCB: When you say it went fast, when did it really start to feel like 'Whoa what's going on?'

NM: Not until this year. Going into my senior year I was like 'Wow basketball will be over in four months.' It wasn't until this year that it really hit me.

SCB: Do you realize it's over yet? Your mental memory in the past is: I have to go to practice, I have to do this, I have to do that, has your mental memory started to reset itself?

NM: Definitely not, I am still trying to get used to having all this free time where nothing is scheduled, having all this time to do whatever I want to do, schedule my own appointments. It hasn't set in yet, but it probably will in a couple of months.

SCB: What are some things you learned off the court from being a basketball player?

NM: I learned how to be able to adapt to my schedule and really make the most of my time when I had it. Being a student-athlete you are running to weights, to lunch, to class, to practice, so you only have small windows of time to get those things done, you have to be efficient as a student.

SCB: What has been the low light of the season? What has been your favorite part of this season?

NM: The low light of the season was knowing when it was all said and done; that I was packing up all my stuff, clearing out my locker, knowing that was it for my career. Having spent a lot of time with all the people I played with, sacrifices I made, everything I have gone through my whole basketball career, and now it is over.

We had a lot of highlights this season.  We had some good wins and the team came together. I was really proud of my teammates and the program for what we accomplished – winning the CIT and winning a lot of good games at home in front of our students.

SCB: Can you think of a game in particular for you personally and for the team?

NM: Beating USF in the CIT quarterfinals at USF after we had lost to them twice, giving up a lead at the half in both games. Finally beating them on their own court in the post- season when it really mattered felt really good.

SCB: What are you going to do now? You have spring quarter and then what will you do after you graduate?

NM: After I graduate I will spend the summer in Santa Clara living it up and enjoying California. Then, in August I will be moving to Washington D.C., to go to law school at American University.

SCB: When did you decide that?

NM: I actually made that decision while we were on the road in New York getting ready to play Iona. I had some down time so I had time to think, weigh out my options and made the decision then.

I am excited for a new chapter in my life. I am excited to start law school. It is going to suck to still be a student and have homework but I am excited to start, move to a new place, and start a new experience.

SCB: What do you want to do when you graduate from law school?

NM: All the aspects of law attract me, but I aspire to be a professional sports agent – that would be my dream career.

I will definitely try to get an internship. One benefit to being in D.C. is the network connections.  They have a lot of internships and externships, the work of the Supreme Court, State Department and lobbying firms. There are a lot of opportunities in D.C. for an aspiring attorney.

SCB: You were a walk-on for four years, which is an accomplishment in itself. How difficult is it to do that?

NM: It was very difficult.  For the whole four years there were obviously ups and downs.  There were really low points, times when I didn't think I would make it through. I am extremely proud and very very glad I was able to get through it all. I'm also thankful for all the great opportunities the athletic department and basketball program have given me. It was hard but, definitely an achievement.

SCB: What is hard about it?

NM: The daily struggle of not being on scholarship. You are not guaranteed to play, most likely you won't see the floor at all, a lot of times in practice you aren't getting the repetition that everyone else is getting, so you are doing a lot of standing. You really have to go above and beyond what the average athlete has to do in terms of keeping yourself in shape and being ready when you are called upon.

SCB: So why do it then?

NM: For me personally, I love to compete.  I wasn't ready to give up basketball. I have already sacrificed a lot for basketball, put in a lot of work and I wasn't ready to leave the sport behind. To be able to walk-on at Santa Clara, compete for four more years and represent an institution is something I really wanted to do.

SCB: Do you have any good walk-on stories?

NM: The overall team experience was a story (laughs) quite the experience in itself. There was definitely a few good things like being up on the starters at practice and running the scout team. We have our inside jokes: no cover from half court, second half jackets, how many bottles of Gatorade you can drink in a game (laughs). Tradition this year was to wear the cut-off first half when we were warm, then second half we wore the long sleeves.  The second half jackets never failed us. Sometimes people forgot their second half jacket, not a good look. We also shoot 50 % from half court every game in warm ups.

SCB: What do you pass on to the walk-ons that are left: Phillip Bach, Kyle Perricone and Beau Gamble?

NM: I really hope all those guys make it through the four years as I did. Being a senior on the team, even as a walk-on, is a great honor and something they should be proud of. I have been trying to counsel them while I'm still here.  I want to give them advice that will hopefully help them in the future when they come across difficult roads.

SCB: What about being one of the four seniors? What kind of a special class it was?

NM: The four of us seniors had a great group. Me, Michael Santos and Ben Dowdell came in together. We also came in with Coach Keating as well, for his first year. When Troy Payne came we welcomed him with open arms and really enjoyed him being here, being apart of what we were building at SCU. We have a great group. We spent a lot of time together on the court and off the court, obviously a group of guys that will be my friends forever.

SCB: What moment was most fun off the court with your teammates?

NM: After we won the CIT championship and our careers were over, it was great to sit with the four seniors, and Ramón (manager for four years), to reminisce about our careers.  Just sitting together and appreciating that last night that we were all together as part of Santa Clara basketball.

It was an awesome night for the five of us. We were in New York City, the city that never sleeps (laughs). It was an awesome night.

SCB: Parting notes?

NM: It has been a pleasure to be apart of the Santa Clara community, the University, the Athletic Department and the community as whole. It has been a great experience and a great four years. I loved it and will be back when I can.  I'll be following SCU basketball and athletics into the future.