February 8, 2013

Mendy isn't just hoops

Kevin McCarthy

We tend to straightjacket those who we interview for articles. It's unintentional but due to the focus primarily if not exclusively being on the straight and narrow: tell us about basketball in your life. However, these young men are multi-dimensional human beings and often what takes place away from the court is just as important for recruiters to know about as skill analysis and potential projections.

Take Blair Mendy, a 6-foot-3 2013 point guard from Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose.

photo of Blair Mendy

Sure, he is a very important piece of Coach Patrick Schneider's squad and a recruit getting looks from a number of schools (more on those aspects later) but does anyone know that he's a member of the Boys & Girls Club in East Palo Alto and has volunteered over 100 hours of service? Or that he wants to major in economics with a minor in African-American studies in order to eventually create businesses that serve communities in need? Mendy is someone with an awareness and sense of responsibility beyond his numerical years.

Plus, how much of his grit and determination is recognized? Try playing with three bone edemas and two partially torn tendons in a foot as he has done for much of the season.

Undoubtedly, his life has been imprinted by his father coming to this country from west Africa at age 15. And get this: on an academic scholarship from, yes, Bellarmine arch rival Archbishop Mitty. Much hard work later, a degree from Santa Clara University was earned.

Ask Mendy his best basketball skills and, yes, it's a different answer than most: “My leadership. My job is to get the team on the same page and get my teammates going. We have so many guys who can score it's just a matter of getting them the ball in the right spot.” Command and control are elements he deliberately paired up with from a very young age -- “I've played point guard my whole life.”

About his on-court director, Schneider said, “Our season is a tale of his foot. We started well (10-0 before Mendy was hurt and missed some games) but with him out Grant [Vermeer] had to play some point and he is our top scorer with a wing mentality. So it took him away from what he does best. Having Blair back has made a huge difference for us.”

Here's Schneider on Mendy's assets: “He is so long and rangy that when he gets near the basket, he can change the angle of his shots and shoot over guys. Blair is also so good defensively he can guard any player of any size on the perimeter.”

Besides his performing as the court general, Mendy added “my jumper is more consistent and my ability to get to the rim is better. I also enjoy taking on the role of being a lockdown defender.”

His brother Sean, who played soccer at Cornell and Jason Norman, a 2001 Bellarmine graduate who captained the basketball team at Harvard, are his strongest roundball influences. He trains with both.

What shouldn't be surprising since it dovetails with Mendy's values is his best basketball moment response being “winning CCS last year.” Bellarmine bested Santa Clara, Salinas and then Piedmont Hills in the championship finals, all by double figures.

Regarding recruiting, it's Loyola Marymount, Columbia, San Diego and Cornell showing the most interest. The Columbia program is headed by Kyle Smith, who was the longtime associate head coach at St. Mary's. San Diego Assistant Coach Rodney Tention was formerly at Stanford and other Bay Area programs so both are still very familiar with Bay Area prospects. With Cornell, Head Coach Bill Courtney is the lead recruiter with Mendy.

About the 2012-13 battles in the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL), Mendy offered, “we're in a good spot. We're talented enough to make a deep run and hitting our peak now. I have confidence in all my teammates and love going to battle with them.” The Bells are currently 15-5 overall, 5-5 in the WCAL, with six-point double overtime and two-point losses to Mitty.