To know the kind of person Bishop Mency is, just ask him what he was thinking about as he scored a season-high 20 points in his last outing against Charlotte.
"The biggest thing Saturday night was that I was trying to play as hard as I could for those seniors. I wanted to send them off the best way that we could. Senior Night is always a special night. We took it down to the wire and obviously we didn't pull it out but my main thing was to play as hard as I could for those guys. Even if I was tired, if I had an open shot I had the confidence to knock it down and it's because of those guys. They've been helping me all year. I just tried to lay it all out there and give them everything I've got."
Mency has played with that same type of mindset all season, and the results speak for themselves. The Chino Hills, Calif. native has started 19 games for the Owls as a freshman and ranks fourth on the team with 8.0 points per game following Saturday's 20-point outburst. Mency sank a season-high five three-pointers in the game and leads all Conference USA rookies with nearly two treys per contest. The guard also hauls in more than three rebounds per game.
That type of big game is nothing new for Mency, as he came off the bench to score in double figures in each of the Owls' first three games of the season. While that type of production is not common for freshmen in their collegiate debuts, Mency expected to perform well when given the opportunity.
"I wouldn't say it was a surprise. I have a lot of confidence in myself and the guys have been behind me since day one. The coaching staff and my teammates have a lot of confidence in me and that pushes me and allows me to go out and play stress-free. I don't have to worry about getting pulled out of the game if I mess up or do something wrong. I have a lot of leeway as a freshman and I know that's rare. I'm just in a great position and I'm so thankful to be here."
A lot of that confidence comes from his success on the court at every level, but it has been built up even more by his teammates and coaching staff over the past several months.
"I've learned so much this season. Everything that anyone said, whether it's constructive criticism or encouragement, sticks with me. I try to put it all in perspective. It's just been a great year. I've had so much fun. I wasn't sure I'd have that much fun, but it's so much more than what I expected. I'm just thankful that I've had the opportunity to play this year and help the team. The biggest thing is sticking to the process. That's something that the coaching staff has stressed, along with encouraging my teammates and being a good teammate. There are nights I'm not on and I might miss a couple shots, but those dudes are there to encourage me and I'm there to encourage them. That just makes playing basketball so much more fun. That's been something that has stuck out to me this year."
Mency also has a strong support network, both from his family back home as well as relatives in the Houston area and Tyler, Texas.
"It's a big adjustment coming so far from home in your first couple years of college. My family in town has been great and I've gone to dinner with them and they come and see me as much as they can. It's a home-away-from-home type of feeling. It's been huge to have their support and they've come to some of the games. I talk to them after the games and they encourage me - it's just a great feeling to have family and know you're not alone."
Mency was able to quickly adjust to college life in Houston in part due to his quick connection with a pair of teammates that also hail from the Los Angeles area in junior Max Guercy and sophomore Marcus Jackson.
"With Max and Marcus being from the same area in California, it's good to have those guys on the team. I can relate to them and we share some of the same interests. We have a lot in common, and that really goes for the whole team. We're like a family and it's great to have that kind of support."
Mency has certainly had fun playing basketball this season and growing with the teams, but he also has particularly enjoyed the experience of traveling with the team.
"I really like the road trips. We get to get away from school a little bit and travel to new places and be around the team. It's a little reminiscent of travel ball, when it's you and your boys going out and playing basketball and just having fun. That's been one of the more enjoyable things for me, and we've had some big wins on the road and that makes it that much sweeter. It's cool to go places you haven't been. I hadn't been to a lot of these states, like Virginia or Alaska or Oregon. It's great to get out there and see some different places."
As the regular season winds down, Mency knows the importance of the offseason for continuing the progress he's made as a player. Once the Owls' run comes to an end, he knows what type of work he needs to put in to continue his growth.
"Playing this first year, I can really see the difference between high school and college ball. Throughout the season, some things stick out like handling the ball and making decisions with the ball. There are a lot of things I need to do, like work on my body and get stronger. I also need to get more comfortable playing the guard position and handling the ball. There are a lot of things I look forward to in the offseason. I think it's going to be a big point and it's going to help me become a better player next year."
The offseason still feels far away to Mency and his teammates as he directs his thoughts back to the final road trip of the regular season and the Conference USA Championship next week in Birmingham, Ala.
"We're going to finish strong, and in the offseason we're going to work even harder than last year. But we've still got a lot of games left. We can make a good run in the tournament. I feel like we can beat anybody in the conference and I'm looking forward to that right now."
Men's Basketball Sprints Past UTSA in C-USA Opener
Marcus Jackson notched 27 points to lead Rice University men's basketball to a 67-52 win over UTSA in the Conference USA opener for both teams. The sophomore sank five three-pointers and shot 9-of-15 from the field as the Owls tallied a third-straight home win.