THE memory of a horrible incident came racing back for Alaska coach Alex Compton the moment he saw Jaypee Mendoza sprawled on the Astrodome floor motionless in the waning seconds of the PBA Philippine Cup game between the Aces and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Suddenly the memory of close friend Eugene Tejada flashed back for Compton, specifically the injury suffered by the former Purefoods big man after a bad fall 11 years ago at the Ynares Center in Antipolo in a PBA game against Red Bull.
Tejada went down with a fractured vertebrae after hitting the floor on a rebound play, aggravated further when 6-foot-9 Mick Pennisi fell on him. The Fil-Am big man was left paralyzed from the waist down that led to his premature retirement from the game.
At that point, no one was more scared for Mendoza than Compton, a good friend of Tejada.
“The image of Eugene suddenly flashed back on me,” said Compton, who was emotional during the post-game interview as he recalled the incident that happened to his friend on May 14, 2006.
“That’s why I stood there on the sidelines looking closely at Jaypee.”
But as per the initial diagnosis of Alaska resident physician Facundo Sun, Mendoza, a former San Beda stalwart, appeared to be fine since his entire body has been responding well.
“He has feeling from head to foot, so that’s a good sign already,” said Compton.
Mendoza finished with eight points and five rebounds in 19 minutes of play and helped the Aces secure a twice-to-beat advantage and the no. 2 seed in the playoffs with their 94-89 victory over Rain or Shine.