Alex Garcia-Mendoza has always been fascinated by how things fit together. He turned that childhood fascination into a career at VCC, an international construction company with headquarters in Little Rock.
‚ÄúSince I was little, I wanted to put together a major project,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúMy dad is a coach, my mom stays at home. I had no family connection in construction. I don‚Äôt have any single reason why; it just interested me ‚Äď how do they put all this together?‚ÄĚ
It is a question that could be asked of him. The 6-foot-3-inch Garcia-Mendoza grew up playing soccer in El Fuerte, Mexico, a small town about an hour away from the Pacific Ocean. But he ended up falling in love with basketball.
He was recruited to play ball in Brazil. Another scout recruited him to play for a Colorado junior college. That was where UALR coaches found him, but they had competition recruiting him.
‚ÄúI was going to go to Utah State, but the reason I chose UALR was because they had a construction management degree,‚ÄĚ Garcia-Mendoza said.
UALR basketball fans were glad they did.
On Feb. 5, 2010, in Sun Belt Conference game against in-state rival Arkansas State, the Trojans were down 77-76 with 3.9 seconds remaining. Garcia-Mendoza took an inbound pass and raced up the court, putting up a buzzer shot at mid-court. The ball hit the rim and bounced into the backboard before dropping through to give UALR a 79-77 victory.
‚ÄúYeah. That was cool,‚ÄĚ Garcia-Mendoza recently recalled.
ESPN thought so too. Garcia-Medoza‚Äôs shot made the network‚Äôs ‚ÄúPlay of the Game‚ÄĚ that weekend and was a big YouTube hit.
The play also caught the attention of Sam Alley, chief executive officer of VCC, which didn‚Äôt hurt Garcia-Mendoza‚Äôs chances to landing an internship that turned into a permanent position as project engineer at the construction company.
Mendoza credits UALR faculty in the construction management program for his success, particularly department chair Mike Tramel.
‚ÄúAll the faculty really know what they are talking about,‚ÄĚ said Garcia-Mendoza. Tramel, for example, started his career as a union iron worker building large dams and bridges in the West.
Someone else is happy that Mendoza chose UALR ‚Äď his fiancee, Carissa Noriega. She got her undergraduate degree in marketing and public relations and is currently working on a master‚Äôs degree in business. They plan to get married in December.