The Bootleg: Now what's this we hear about these games of HORSE you guys have been playing? Is that you, Mose and Casey?
Ryan Mendez: No, just me and Case. Obviously, I wasn't shooting the ball really well to begin the season. We just played a couple games of HORSE, and he'd beat me every now and then. Not too much, but I could definitely tell he was loving it. Then I said, "Oh, why don't we put a little money on the line." He said, "Alright, whatever you want." I think we bet five bucks, and I beat him.
The Bootleg: Who is the best shooter on this team?
Ryan Mendez: Right here. You're interviewing him. (big grin) Nah, I don't like to talk about myself too much. There are definitely great shooters on this team.
The Bootleg: Are we correct that we have yet to see you dunk in a game?
Ryan Mendez: No, I haven't dunked yet in a game. Tyler Besecker told me he'd give me fifty bucks if I would dunk in a game, so I'm gonna get one one of these days. I think I definitely will. My legs are feeling pretty good. You know in the past, I was playing on only one and a half legs last year. The previous year, I was bothered with all the pain that my knee gave me. It really didn't allow me to get up that much. It's something definitely that I can do, but just haven't done yet.
The Bootleg(The Truth): Is your rebounding ability something you work hard on or is it just a natural skill you have? On a per-minute basis, you are one of our very best offensive boarders.
Ryan Mendez: I think rebounding is just a conscious effort of going to the ball. If you're always aware of it, and just make an effort to go around the basket, balls are going to bounce your way every now and then. But it also helps that I'm typically a little bit bigger than my opponents. Most of the guys I play against are 6-4, 6-5 tops. That's how the Pac-10 is - pretty much guard oriented. That definitely gives me an advantage. Some guys, though, they're just lazy on defense. They won't block you out. If they don't block you out, you just grab a couple boards. That's a quick and easy two points, or you can start the fast-break.
The Bootleg: If you could choose between a thirty point game, fifteen rebound game, or seven of seven three-point shooting, which would you take?
Ryan Mendez: (laughs) That's a tough question... Do we win the game?
The Bootleg: Yes.
Ryan Mendez: Alright, we won the game. I'll take seven-of-seven threes. Are those my only field goals - seven threes?
The Bootleg: That's just your top stat.
Ryan Mendez: Alright, I'll take that (grins).
The Bootleg(The Truth): Who is the dirtiest player in the Pac-10?
Ryan Mendez: You know it's kind of funny because a lot of guys start banging you and hitting you when you first go out there. I'll say, "Hey buddy, what's going on here?" I'll just pat him on the back. Then they'll usually react with, "Alright, alright. This guy's pretty cool." They don't talk too much. As far as dirty players, I don't really want to mention any names.
The Bootleg: Warming up for a game, can you tell that you've got the stroke down, or can you not tell until you've hit the first couple of shots?
Ryan Mendez: No, I think warming up, I generally feel good out there. I feel like I'm going to have a great game. Sometimes it doesn't work out like that, though. You don't get the early opportunities - you don't get the open looks. There's all these other variables that play into it. But in warm-ups, I always feel like I'm going to go out there and light the nets up.
The Bootleg: You started the year shooting 21.7% from 3-point range, through the Georgia Tech game. From the Nevada game through now, you've shot 51.7%. What's changed?
Ryan Mendez: I think it took getting back into the flow of things. I didn't play for a year - year and a half - really. Playing at this level requires so much more than just shooting and running up and down the court. I think my legs are finally starting to get back in shape. I have gotten my confidence back little by little. If I could take it back, I don't necessarily think I would take it back. This setback has forced me to do other things, like put the ball on the floor a little bit. I've seen Casey take it inside and get fouled a little bit. You know, one of the things I'm most proud of is the fact that I'm shooting more free throws than David Moseley. Mose is typically a guy who takes it to the hole a lot, so that's telling me that I'm doing things right and not just taking the three-point shots.
The Bootleg: Do you ever, like on Saturday (vs. kal), if you miss the first couple of threes, consciously stop shooting? Or was it just that you weren't getting open? Do you stop looking for it, and start looking more to rebound?
Ryan Mendez: Are you talking about this past Saturday?
The Bootleg: Yes.
Ryan Mendez: No… You know it's kind of funny because I was just telling my mom this. I was one-for-five for threes on Saturday, and the one I thought I missed - I made. All the others I thought I made - I missed. I thought all of those shots were going in; they felt really good. In those situations, I'm not going to stop shooting.
The Bootleg: If Monty comes to you and asks you for your choice of one non-conference game next year, your senior year, who would you put on the schedule?
Ryan Mendez: At Indiana.
The Bootleg: Why?
Ryan Mendez: The mystique of Bobby Knight and playing against him. I was recruited by Indiana quite a bit in high school. I didn't make, I guess, the final cut. They said they were under pressure for recruiting and that they needed a really athletic guy. That was definitely somewhere that I wanted to go in high school. It would be an unbelievable college atmosphere, and I'd love to play there.