COACH Alex Compton has called veteran big man Eric Menk as a ‘warrior’ for refusing to wear a facial mask despite playing with a broken nose in Alaska’s 89-81 win over NLEX in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup on Friday night.
But for Menk, suiting up against the Road Warriors was fueled more by his desire to enjoy the game in the twilight of a long, colorful career.
The cut on the bridge of his nose still visible, the 6-foot-6 forward-center shrugged off the pain and went about his business, finishing with nine points and six rebounds in the Aces’ sixth win in seven outings in this all-Filipino conference.
He also played for 23 minutes off the bench just two days after a wayward elbow by Star forward Marc Pingris left him with a broken nose in a 107-102 Alaska win.
“I definitely just want to play. I don’t know how much longer I’m gonna be able to play. When I got hit, I thought that could be the end of the season for me. I was really worried about that,” Menk admitted.
Good thing doctors advised him that no surgery is needed.
“I was relieved to find out that wasn’t the case. I wanna play as many games as I can before I call it a day.”
The former league MVP said doctors found out there was only a small fracture on the right side of his nose that doesn’t require surgery like before when he was out of commission for a month after also breaking the same part of his face while playing for San Miguel in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
Menk said he didn’t have problem breathing during practice. While he was advised to wear a mask, Menk decided it would be better not to have one.
“They couldn’t get one made in time. And they told me that if I wear a mask and I got hit it would still do damage to my nose,” he stressed. “So I figured out why wear a mask in the hope that I won’t get hit.”
And did someone from NLEX try to hit him? A smiling Menk mentioned two prominent names.
“I think Enrico (Villanueva) and Rob Reyes. I think he really tried to hit me one time,” said the veteran forward while letting out a loud laugh.
Other than enjoying the game, Menk appreciates that he still get to play mano-a-mano against old rival and good pal Asi Taulava.
“It’s good,” he said of the match-up against his former San Miguel teammate. “I don’t know how many more times we're gonna be out there, so it’s always good to play against the older guys.”