JUST when Jed Mendoza was speaking to reporters about how he was looking forward to make amends for Jose Rizal University's heartbreaking loss to Arellano last week, his head coach Vergel Meneses interrupted him – in jest – that draw laughter from the press room.
“Kung gagamitin pa kita,” said Meneses.
That has been the type of relationship between the two ever since Mendoza started playing for the Heavy Bombers– and the results of their off-court chemistry are beginning to show this season.
Mendoza scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half to lift the Heavy Bombers to a 65-62 win over the Letran Knights and end their two-game slide in the NCAA Season 93 on Friday at the Filoil Flying V Center.
Meneses has been known to show tough love when he finds potential from his players, and Mendoza is no exception.
From guys like Nate Matute, Phillip Paniamogan, Paolo Pontejos and now to Teytey Teodoro, Meneses always had a high scoring guard that he can turn to ever since handling his Alma Mater since Season 86.
If Mendoza keeps going at this pace, he could soon be the next main gunner for this squad.
“I keep on challenging him. Talagang nakakatikim sakin ng masakit na salita yan. Alam niya yan. Ganun ako magmotivate sa kanya e kasi alam kong magaling siya,” said Meneses.
“Hindi ko naman siya papansinin, di ako magsasalita kung wala aakong kumpyansa sa kanya,” he added.
The key for Mendoza is knowing his role in the team.
When he first played for the Heavy Bombers, he had to play a limited role with guys like Pontejos and Teodoro manning the backcourt for their squad.
With the departure of Pontejos and the unfortunate injury of former NCAA Juniors MVP Darius Estrella, Mendoza was suddenly given a bigger responsibility and the 5’10 guard from Balanga, Bataan has been eager to step up.
“Last year kasi expected ko naman na di ako masyado gagamitin dahil andun pa yung mga veterans namin. Andun pa sina Paolo, sila Jordan. So expected ko na contribute lang pag hinuhugot,” said Mendoza.
“Ngayon kasi syempre wala na sila, sabi nga ni Coach Vergel, kailangan ko na i-take yung responsibility to step up kasi wala na mga veterans,” he added.
Meneses knew Mendoza’s potential in scoring from the start. But just like any other player which goes through his squad, the only way one gets his minutes is if he plays defense.
His game saving defensive stop on JP Calvo is quite a huge testament on Mendoza’s ability to be a decent defender as well.
“Actually nung nasa Team B siya, he averaged 25 points per game sa Fr. Martin. Hindi lang siya kagad naka-adapt sa sistema kasi kailangan mag-blend siya kila Teytey,” Meneses said.
“Kailangan depensa muna, intay lang ng bola, which is ang nangyayari sa kanya everytime he touches the ball parang nagmamadali siya,” he added.
Now that he’s finally getting the minutes and the recognition that his potential deserves, Mendoza vows to make the most out of it.
“Sana ito na yung unang [steps] para sa career ko kasi syempre sa ibang school kasi mahirap eh, mahirap talaga mag try out. Dito sa JRU, na welcome nila ako. Na appreciate nila kaagad potential ko. Grab ko na tong JRU at sana tuloy tuloy na,” said Mendoza