At 5-foot-3, Regine Mecenario walks around the Porterville College campus and appears to blend in, among the other 4,000 students.
She weaves through the quad, wearing a backpack and a baggy hooded sweatshirt — racing to class while listening to her iPod.
She’s an honor roll student (nearly a perfect 4.0), and as polite as she is soft-spoken. Most of her instructors or fellow PC students don’t know that Mecenario was born and raised in the Philippines. She was 13 when her family moved to Delano, and she started to begin speaking fluent English.
They also don’t realize that Mecenario is also perhaps the toughest student-athlete wearing a Pirate uniform.
“Regine is one of the quietest players I’ve ever coached, but she’s a lot tougher than she looks,” said PC women’s basketball coach Dave Kavern.
“She’s small, but gets to the basket. She will get knocked down a few times during the game, but she is always able to shake it off. I want my other players to recognize how hard Regine plays the game, so it rubs off on them.”
Besides toughness, Mecenario currently leads the Pirates in several categories, including points per game (11.5), steals (2.9), minutes played, and — of course — drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line (55 attempts).
“My style is being aggressive on the floor,” said Mecenario.
“On offense, I like to drive to the basket, and on defense I like to get steals. That’s just the way I’ve always played the game.”
Growing up in Manila, most of her friends played volleyball or chess, while the boys were into boxing or playing basketball. Until one day, when her older brother, Ryan, took her out to the playground to shoot hoops.
“All we did was play one-on-one basketball,” she said. “That’s probably where I learned to drive and create different moves against bigger defenders.”
When Mecenario moved to Delano and entered the eighth grade, she got her first glimpse of organized basketball. She had to learn team concepts, which was extra difficult while still learning a new language.
After four years of varsity basketball at Delano High School and earning All-East Yosemite League honors, Kavern convinced Mecenario to play at the college level.
“She was the quickest player on the court,” he said. “I think being left-handed helps her beat the defender a lot of times. And, she is always hustling on offense and defense.”
Mecenario, 20, hopes to earn an academic scholarship to a four-year university to study nursing. In the meantime, she wants to continue to lead the Pirates by example.
“We have the players to compete,” she said. “We just need to improve our mentality. We need to learn to never give up. Once we do that, then we will be more successful.”