Juan Mendez donned the Red and White after his great career at Niagara in 2007. (Reuters Pictures, 2007)
Now for our Top NC-Double-Eh Player of the Decade, the title belongs to Juan Mendez. This guy did it all on both ends and really went from a player to A PLAYER almost overnight. Check out why he owns the crown right here ...
Juan Mendez, Forward – Niagara (01-05)
Career numbers: 31.1 mpg, 18.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.4 bpg, 53% FG, 77.6 FT%, 29.5 3PT FG%, 123 games
Montreal’s Juan Mendez was probably the best Canadian that played in the NCAA between 2000 and 2010. In his four years at Niagara he set the bar extremely high for all the Canadians to follow statistically speaking but while his sheer impact on a basketball program rivals that of the likes of Canucks Steve Nash and Todd MacCulloch. For his college career, Mendez averaged 18 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.4 blocks while shooting 53.4% from the floor and 77.5% from the line.
After graduating from the Florida Air Academy, Mendez took his talent to Niagara University. Right from the jump he made an impression and only continued to get better as a Purple Eagle. As a freshman, Mendez made the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference All Rookie Team, as well as winning the MAAC Sixth Man of the Year, after averaging 9.9 points and 6.1 boards which was a sign of things to come.
Mendez’s sophomore season was his true breakout year. That year he doubled most of his stats average 18.8 points, 1.2 blocks and 1.3 steals while upping his rebounding to nine a contest and shooting 60% from the field on his way to MAAC First Team as well as All MAAC Tournament honors. His third season saw him dominate in the conference again, but this season saw Mendez step out onto the perimeter more unlike his first two. As a junior he averaged 20.5 points, 8.8 off the glass, 1.8 blocks and a steal while shooting 52.1% from the floor and 80.8% from the free throw on his way to consecutive MAAC First Team selections as well as MAAC Tournament First Team.
Mendez would save his best season for his last run in what can be easily described as the best season of any Canadian in the NCAA in the last 25 years. As a senior, he led the Purple Eagles to the conference championship and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 35 years to that point. During the season, Mendez averaged a double-double, 23.5 points and 10.6 rebounds, despite constant double teams to go along with his 2.1 blocks and 1.2 steals. That year he racked up the post season awards being named MAAC Player of the Year, All MAAC First Team, All MAAC Tournament as well as MVP. He also garnered NABC All District as well as an Associated Press All America Honorable Mention for is incredible season.
When all was said and done for Mendez, he would leave Niagara as not only one of the best in the program but also the best Canadian to ever play at that level. He holds top ten finishes in quite a few of the Purple Eagle season and career record books highlighted by trailing only Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy in career points (2210) which also happens to be the most by a Canadian in the NCAA. He would go on to play for the Canadian National Team for two summers after graduation and play in both Europe and Asia professionally.
Post Season Honors
Honorable mention AP all American senior year
MAAC POY 2005
Three time All MAAC First Team (02-05)
NABC All District 04-05
MAAC Sixth Man of Year 01-02 as a freshman
MAAC All Rookie team
MAAC All Tournament (03, 04, 05)
MAAC Tournament MVP 2005
MAAC Conference 25th Anniversary Team
2nd All time scoring (2210) - most by Canadian in D1 and most points in four year career for Eagle.
7th, 8th Most points in season (705, 656)
8th Scoring average in season (23.5)
8th Career scoring average (17.9)
10th All time FGs made in season (221)
2nd Career FGM (750)
9th Most FGA season (469)
4th Most FGA career (1412)
4th Best FG% in a season (.602) - .003 behind Brampton, ON’s Kevin Jobity.
5th Best Career FG% (.531)
5th and 7th Most FTM made in a game (19, 17)
2nd, 3rd Most FTM in a season (224, 223)
Tied-1st Most FTM in a career (654)
2nd Most FTA in a game (23)
3rd, 4th Most FTM in a season (276, 275)
1st Career FTA (843)
3rd Career REB (1053)
8th Career REB Avg (8.56)
4th, 7th Most blocks season (63, 56)
4th Most blocks career (170) - 7 behind Jobity
4th, 9th Highest block average season (2.10, 1.75)
4th Career block average (1.38)