HE is one of Alaska’s silent operators, hardly putting up gaudy numbers, yet still making a significant presence as an integral part of the Aces’ pressure defense.
Off the court, Jaypee Mendoza works as hard without much fanfare, as he’s one of the few cagers who have decided to continue their college education even after already making the jump to the pros, determined to finish his Marketing degree at San Beda.
“Syempre priority ko rin yung pagtapos ko ng college kasi halos lahat naman, alam na ang PBA hindi forever,” Mendoza told SPIN.ph. “Kailangan ko mag-graduate para after this, may fallback ako, para hindi ako mahirapan after ng PBA career ko.”
Mendoza, who turned 26 last month, has been thinking ahead even before he became one of Alaska’s three second-round picks in the 2015 Draft.
“Yung sa PBA, hindi ko naman in-expect (na makukuha ako), parang swerte na lang din, kasi ang daming players eh,” the former Red Lions standout admitted. “Ang unang inisip ko bago ako nagpa-draft is paano ko mabubuhay yung magiging family ko. Tapos if ever na hindi makuha sa draft dati, at least parang meron ako (gagawin) at hindi masyado masakit para sa ’kin.”
“Eh sakto, nakuha naman,” he added. “At habang nakuha, tinatapos ko yung pagaaral ko pa rin. Maging ready lang ako if ever na – hindi naman sa hindi tatagal – pero mahirap magsalita ng (tapos eh), pero if ever, may fallback ako.”
Mendoza may have long been planning for the future, but the present is looking good for the sophomore forward. The 6-foot-3 Mendoza has become a fixture in the Aces’ rotation in the absence of injured big men Sonny Thoss and Noy Baclao.
He turned in solid numbers in the last four games, averaging 7.2 points on a solid 73.1-percent clip from the field along with 2.7 boards in 20 minutes in his first six outings this season.
But once his playing days are over, the Tarlac native is planning to help manage the rice mill family business of his fiancé Precious in their hometown.
“If ever na matapos na ako sa PBA, yun na yung fallback ko, ituloy namin yun,” Mendoza, father to a one-year-old son, said.
Mendoza, though, had to skip his academic duties for a year to prepare for the draft. But he’s making up for lost time now that he’s in the PBA to continue the student-athlete grind, as he’s enrolled in one-on-one tutorial classes for the last three subjects he needs to pass in order to graduate in 2017 — technically his sixth year in college.
“Ang ginagawa ko, after ng practice, minsan pag sinasabi ng prof na nasa Beda siya, pwede ko siya puntahan dun, then may papagawa siya then subumit ko sa kanya,” Mendoza said, adding he now pays half of his tuition after being a scholar his entire collegiate career.
Mendoza’s hard work, especially in balancing the rigors of his playing career with the demands of his studies, is not lost on Aces coach Alex Compton.
“Jaypee has really committed to finishing his studies after next semester,” the American coach said. “I am really impressed with his dedication and perseverance to get his degree.”
The Aces forward, though, admits the grind gets to him at times. But at the end of it all, he considers it a sacrifice worth enduring.
“Mahirap pa rin (pagsabayin) kasi hindi lang isang subject eh,” Mendoza admitted. “Minsan, gusto mo gawin yan, pero gusto mo mag-focus dito (sa laro). Mahirap pagsabayin, pero kailangan eh. Para rin naman sa akin at sa future ko.”