ACTING out a role he is most comfortable with has done wonders for the game of Paolo Mendoza.
The Sta. Lucia Realty playmaker was shifted to the 2-guard spot at the start of the season and he has taken to the job like duck to water, more often than not churning out the numbers that were expected of him.
Mendoza himself proved this by exploding for a personal conference-high 20 points last Saturday, leading the Realtors to an 89-83 win over Welcoat in the Talk N Text-PBA Philippine Cup.
The victory improved SLR’s win-loss record to 6-1, cementing its hold on solo leadership and stretching the team’s best-ever sustained start in an All-Filipino tournament.
Without ace Kelly Williams, then in the States acting as best man to a bosom buddy’s wedding, it is highly doubtful the win could have been pulled off.
Yet there was Mendoza leading the Realtors’ all-around exploits and making a highlight end-game heroic, making him the hands-down choice as the PBA Press Corps’ ACCEL Player of the Week for the period Oct. 30-Nov. 5.
“Masaya po ako at nananalo po kami at nakakatulong po ako sa team ko. Malaki rin po ang pasasalamat ko sa coaching staff at sa management, sa tiwala nila,” said Mendoza.
It marked the third time a Realtor was accorded such honor following skipper Dennis Espino (Oct. 9-15) and Kenneth Duremdes (Oct. 23-29). Still, coach Alfrancis Chua could not be happier with the choice of the top pick in the 2000 Rookie Draft.
“Grabe nilalaro niya, especially sa depensa,” enthused Chua. “‘Yung opensa niya, given na ‘yun. And he works hard in practice, lalo na ngayun na 2-position na siya. I think mas gusto niya iyun.”
The acquisition of Alex Cabagnot last year and Ronnie Bughao prior to this season has enabled Chua to slide the 28-year-old Quezon City native to the shooting guard spot, a position he has occupied in the amateurs and is more comfortable with.
This shows in the way Mendoza keeps contributing, even though Duremdes is SLR’s established starter at the 2-spot.
Against the Dragons, Mendoza anchored his points on 7-of-10 field shooting, including 6-of-9 from three-point land. He also had six rebounds, two assists and as many steals in 32 minutes.
Capping it all up, his last trifecta from way out the right flank gave the Realtors an 83-76 lead in the final 45 seconds and some level of comfort in the face of the newcomers’ gritty stand.
In all, Mendoza is averaging 11 points on a torrid 44.2 percent three-point shooting, 2.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.