There were the inevitable jokes about Kylie Mendez at her Signing Day ceremony Tuesday at Nipomo High School.
“I think she might be 4-11,’ ” Nipomo athletic director Russ Edwards said of the tiny senior point guard after mention of her 5-foot listing.
And while there might be tongue-and-cheek questions about Mendez’s height, none of the friends and family in attendance Tuesday have ever questioned the size of her heart on the court.
“I don’t even think about my height. I just go out and play,” said Mendez, who not surprisingly goes by the nickname “Mighty Mouse.”
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After starting all four years at point guard and leading Nipomo to its first-ever trip to the CIF-Southern Section quarterfinals this season, Mendez signed a National Letter of Intent on her 18th birthday to continue her basketball career at San Diego Christian College.
Despite being the smallest player on the team, the speedy Mendez led Nipomo in rebounds with five per game. She also averaged a team-leading four steals and eight points per game this season, but it was her preference for no-look passing on the court that turned heads. Sometimes those heads didn’t turn quickly enough.
“During the summer, there was a few girls that got hit in the head and the face,” said David Mendez, Kylie’s father and the Nipomo girls basketball coach. “That was a wake-up call for them to always have their head on a swivel and just be ready for the pass.”
She finished the season averaging nearly seven assists per game.
Nipomo went on to beat San Dimas in its first-ever girls basketball home playoff game and followed that with a last-minute win over St. Bonaventure in the second round. Nipomo’s historic playoff run was ended by
No. 1 seed and eventual CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA champion Village Christian.
“It was a crazy season,” Kylie Mendez said. “We had a lot of ups and downs, but I think came out with a bang. I wish we could have kept going, but it was cool to experience it.”
Mendez considered other Division III and NAIA schools from New York to Texas, but she settled on San Diego Christian College — an NAIA school in the Golden State Athletic Conference that plays colleges such as Vanguard, Westmont, and Biola University — because of her good relationship with head coach Irvin Jerry and the chance to play right away. Mendez, who has volunteered as a coach with the Special Olympics, wants to work toward a degree in special education.
Mendez said she is a little nervous about moving from her tiny hometown of Nipomo to San Diego, a city of more than 1.7 million. Her father and mother, Jennifer, have nerves as well, but they are excited about their daughter’s next adventure and know she will spend most of her time in a place she knows well.
“She has always been in the gym. It was always like her second home,” David Mendez said.