JOLO Mendoza looks forward to reuniting with the Nieto brothers as he formally joins Ateneo's senior team following his stint with the Blue Eaglets.
The 18-year-old Mendoza, the 2015 UAAP juniors Finals MVP, admitted one of the reasons why he stayed with Ateneo is because of his former Blue Eaglets teammates Mike and Matt Nieto, who are entering their sophomore year with the seniors squad.
The 5-foot-10 guard added a more personal, even spiritual reason behind his decision to stick with Ateneo.
“Aside from me wanting to continue my career there and playing with the Nietos again, it’s the spiritual formation that I’ve gone through at Ateneo. I really believe that they molded me to a person that I want myself to become and my parents want me to become,” said Mendoza at the sidelines of a press conference for the NBTC All-Star game on Thursday where he was named among the participants.
Mendoza was even supposed to attend his first practice with Ateneo on Thursday but had to be excused due to the NBTC press conference that was held at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Mendoza said the chemistry formed from playing with the Nietos for such a long time made his decision easier as well. They last played together in Season 77 when Mike, that season's MVP, Matt and the rest of the Blue Eaglets defeated National University in the finals.
“They are really special to me because ever since I was six years old, when I started my career in the Ateneo, I started it with them. I’m excited to continue my career with the Ateneo with them.
“Hopefully tumagal siya after college,” said Mendoza.
Mendoza, though, admitted he has yet to talk with the Nietos since he committed to join the Blue Eagles.
“I’m sure they are excited kasi malapit rin ako sa kanila… We are a family na rin na we bond on and off the court. It’s really exciting,” he said.
As he enters college, the Ateneo hotshot said he still has a lot of things to work on. First on his list is improving his lean frame.
“One of the things I want to improve on is siguro my strength. Kailangan ko magpalaki ng katawan because the players in college are ready to join the pro league. One of the things that I have to improve on is conditioning and my strength. I really have to work on that,” he said.
Mendoza is also excited to be coached by Gilas Pilipinas mentor Tab Baldwin, the new Ateneo coach, more so since he has heard how the American-New Zealander treats his players as family.
“He is a well-known coach. He is a champion coach. He is an international coach. Marami talaga siyang alam and I’m excited to learn from him on and off the court. I heard a lot of things about him na parang pamilya sa kanya ‘yung team. I want to be under him now,” Mendoza said.