Dribble Media’s ZerJosh Serrano talked to former collegiate basketball star Jed Mendoza about his mixed emotions on being picked last in the 2021 PBA Draft, along with the fact that he just fulfilled his family’s dreams.
Former UE Red Warriors and JRU Heavy Bomber Jed Mendoza was the 61st pick in the 2021 PBA Draft.
Jed Mendoza was only 11 years of age when he started dreaming of playing in the PBA.
And no, it wasn’t just his dream. It was the dream of his whole family.
Influenced by his father and his two brothers, Jed’s love for the game of basketball blossomed into a serious goal of being a PBA player someday. But he was not alone in that pursuit. His father and his siblings all wanted to play basketball at the highest level.
So they pushed and helped each other improve, and eventually it paid dividends when Jed was selected in the recently-concluded PBA Draft.
“Dito sa family ko, pangarap talaga namin lahat na maging basketball player. Kaso ako lang yung nabigyan ng opportunity na magpatuloy sa pangarap namin.
Kaya ang pamilya ko ang nagsisilbing motivation ko araw-araw. Hindi ko lang pangarap ito, pero pangarap din ito ng buong pamilya ko.”
Before he was selected in the draft, Jed was a star in the collegiate ranks for a long time. He was one of the few collegiate players in Filipino basketball history to play both in the NCAA and in the UAAP.
Jed was a star in the NCAA as he played a main man role for the JRU Heavy Bombers. After he graduated from JRU, Jed took advantage of UAAP’s “done-and-one” rule to further hone his skills as preparation for his inevitable jump to the pros.
Jed served as one of JRU’s backcourt stars in the NCAA. (Photo by Marie Dobuyan/Tiebreaker Times)
He revealed that three UAAP schools reached out to him, but a number of personal reasons eventually led him to the doorsteps of the University of the East Red Warriors.
“Actually, hindi ko pa alam noong una na pwede pa pala ako maglaro sa UAAP. I just found out about it after ng graduation ko sa JRU. Maglalaro na dapat ako sa MPBL that time, pero pinili ko muna na maglaro sa UAAP para mahasa yung skills ko. Alam naman natin na pagdating sa amateur ranks, UAAP offers the biggest opportunity and exposure.
May tatlong UAAP teams na tumawag sa akin to express their interest in recruiting me. Nauna tumawag yung UST, then UE, at pang-huli yung Adamson. Due to personal reasons, I decided that playing for UE would be a better choice for me.”
Since it is rare for a college player to play both in the NCAA and in the UAAP, it’s only natural for us to ask Jed about the difference between the two popular leagues. The most common take out there is that basketball is more competitive in UAAP.
But Jed begs to differ.
“Madami nagsasabi na mas high-level sa UAAP pero hindi yun totoo. Mas mahirap lang sa UAAP ngayon kasi may mga imports pa. Sa NCAA kasi ipinagbawal na nila ang imports. Pero in terms of physicality and competition, almost the same lang naman.
Ang pinagkaiba nila ay mas budgeted at mas maraming sponsors sa UAAP. Mas lamang talaga ang UAAP in terms of exposure sa media at sa dami ng sponsors na nag-iinvest para sa liga. Sa NCAA kasi limited lang talaga yung financial support na nabibigay nila.
So para sa akin, yun talaga yung pinagkaiba ng UAAP at NCAA. Nagkakatalo lang sa exposure and sponsorship na galing sa mga companies.”
Throughout the several years that he played in the collegiate ranks, Jed admits that he has battled with and against many players who are more skilled than him. This challenge forced him to lean on honing two assets that he deems to be of utmost importance: Discipline and Attitude.
“Ang dami kong nakasama sa UAAP at NCAA na sobrang galing talaga in terms of skills and talent. Kaso nag-pabaya sila at nawalan ng disiplina. Nawala yung focus kasi in the first place, hindi naman talaga sila fully-committed sa basketball.
Doon ko nakita na iba talaga epekto ng kapag may maayos kang disiplina at attitude sa ginagawa mo. Kayang-kaya talunin ng displina ang talent. Yan ang pinaka-importante na natutunan ko sa paglalaro ko sa UAAP at NCAA.”
Jed is seen setting a play for the UE Red Warriors. (Photo by Ken Koo)
After his “done-and-one” stint at UE in 2019, Jed focused on preparing for an even bigger challenge: making the jump to the PBA. With the global lockdown brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, the PBA opted not to hold a rookie draft in 2020.
So as expected, there was an overwhelming collection of talent in this year’s draft class. A number of collegiate stars decided to forego their final playing year and tons of talented but virtually-unknown Filipino-American players applied for the draft.
However, Jed admitted that he had no choice but to try his luck, even in this loaded PBA draft class.
“Last year, ang plano ko ay maglaro muna sa MPBL para doon ako magpa-hinog. Kaso nangyari yung pandemic, at hindi naman natin alam na hihinto rin ang basketball.
One year na din akong walang trabaho as a basketball player. I have a family. I have a wife and a son. Kailangan ko mag-provide para sa kanila. Kaya nag-push na ako na mag-apply sa draft kahit sobrang daming talented players ang kasali.”
To make matters worse, the PBA decided not to hold a Draft Combine this year in an obvious effort to adhere to safety and health protocols. The draft combine is where the potential draftees gather to showcase their skills in front of a bevy of PBA scouts and coaches.
It could have been Jed’s golden opportunity to show to the coaches just how much he has improved. During the pandemic, he worked with a number of trainers to prepare for the draft combine. So without that event, Jed already knew at the back of his mind that his name would not be at the top of the teams’ draft targets.
Fast forward to the draft, Jed said that he and his family couldn’t be more tense, especially in the later rounds. As more of his peers’ names were called and with teams already not selecting players, Jed was already about to lose hope.
“Sobrang tense na kami ng family ko that time. Ang dami na ng tinawag then sunod-sunod na yung mga teams na nag-pass. Sobrang emotional na talaga ako noon. Nagpipigil na ako ng luha at nawawalan na ko ng pag-asa. Ni-ready ko na yung sarili ko na magiging undrafted ako. Pero every minute and every round, nagpatuloy pa rin ako sa pagdadasal.”
Just as when Jed was about to give up, the NorthPort Batang Pier called his name and he was selected as the 61st pick in the draft.
He was the last name to be called that night.
Jed received the news with mixed emotions because he knows the reality in the PBA. He knows that rookies drafted in the later rounds only have the slimmest of chances in signing a contract.
But Jed also knows that he can’t let that thought bring him down. He may be the last pick in the draft, but he is bent on writing his name in the history books.
“Masaya ako na na-recognize ako sa PBA pero at the same time, malungkot din kasi alam ko yung reality. Sa reality ng PBA Draft, kapag nasa baba ka nakuha, maliit talaga yung chance mo na mabigyan ng kontrata.
Pero I just need to stay positive. Iniisip ko na gagawa ako ng history sa PBA. Gagawin ko lahat para magka-kontrata at makapaglaro. Instead na maging disappointed, ginamit ko na lang yun as motivation ko. ”
As a fitting way to put a close to our meaningful conversation, Jed has a piece of advice for people out there who are chasing their dreams.
“Kung gusto mo maabot yung mga pangarap mo, hindi pwede na puro salita ka lang. Kailangan may action talaga. Kapag may proper attitude and discipline ka, susunod na dyan na ma-iimprove mo yung skills mo. Kailangan lang na laging may tiwala ka sa sarili mo at huwag ka maunahan ng takot.”