By Jan Carlo Anolin
Former Purefoods guard Junel Mendiola has passed away Tuesday due to a lingering illness. He was 45.
According to the PBA website, Mendiola, who just celebrated his birthday last June 13, recently underwent lung surgery due to cancer.
He appeared to be recovering well after being transferred from the intensive care unit to a regular room at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan on Monday.
Mendiola was scheduled to continue radiation and chemotherapy once he’s discharged.
The PBA community and San Miguel Corporation extended financial help for Mendiola’s family.
“Nagulat din ako nung nakarating sa akin yung balita kasi nga kausap ko pa yung asawa (actress Sheila Marie Rodriguez) niya. Kahit paano nagpa-abot ng kaunting halaga yung liga para sa kanya,” said Marcial, as quoted from the PBA website.
Mendiola, drafted by the Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdogs in the third round, was part of the 2002 Governors’ Cup champion team that gave then-rookie coach Ryan Gregorio his first title.
It turned out to be Mendiola’s first and last season in the PBA though, averaging 1.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 14 games. Later in the PBA D-League, he coached Trinity College and M Builders.
“He did play a lot of minutes, but he was a contributor every time he stepped inside the court,” Gregorio said. “He was also a positive energy in our practices. He embraced his role so well.”
Mendiola, a three-time MVP in the National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA), led the Philippine School of Business Administration Jaguars to three titles following his transfer from University of Santo Tomas.
He then suited up for Oriental Battery and Welcoat in the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) and later joined the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) with Pangasinan, Laguna and Pampanga.
The former PSBA standout was also a member of the men’s Philippine basketball team that bagged the gold in the 21st Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2001.
Mendiola’s death came three days after Nic Jorge, former league coach and BEST (Basketball Efficiency and Scientific Training) founder, passed away Saturday.