UAAP Basketball

John Lloyd Clemente bids NU goodbye, moves on to MPBL

Naveen Ganglani

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John Lloyd Clemente bids NU goodbye, moves on to MPBL

BIG SHOT. NU star John Lloyd Clemente celebrates after knocking in a three.


NU’s leading scorer John Lloyd Clemente decides to go pro as he also weighs playing overseas or joining the PBA Draft

MANILA, Philippines – National University men’s basketball veteran John Lloyd Clemente has decided to skip his final season of playing eligibility in the UAAP.

Clemente confirmed his decision to Rappler on Thursday, June 8, saying he won’t see action for the Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 86 tournament later this year as he begins moving forward towards his professional playing career.

The 24-year-old, who was NU’s leading scorer in UAAP Season 85, also confirmed that he plans to play with the Pampanga Giant Lanterns in the semi-pro Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) while he contemplates his next move. He is expected to make his debut in the third week of June.

“I think it’s the right time to turn pro and I feel that I’m ready for the next level,” Clemente, in an exclusive interview, said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

“I’m just waiting for an offer overseas, but for now, I’ll be playing with the Pampanga Giant Lanterns.”

The longtime National University student-athlete, who already impressed even as a high school standout, hopes to attract attention from a team in Japan, Korea, or Taiwan while he works on his craft as a basketball player against physically tougher opposition with Pampanga, his home province. 

Clemente confirmed that joining the PBA Draft is also an option.

He broke the news to teammates and coaches on Thursday, many of whom told Rappler that they’re excited for his future and support his decision.

“Sad and excitement,” Clemente responded when asked about his emotions following the decision. “Ever since, NU has been my home and comfort zone. But, [there’s] excitement because I will team up again with Justine Baltazar and play for Governor Delta and my hometown in the MPBL.”

Since high school, Baltazar has won a championship and made the Mythical Team with the La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP, played in the Japan B. League, and shone in the MPBL. 

But before all of that, together with Clemente, the duo helped steer NU’s high school program, the Bullpups, to a third championship in a five-year span in 2016, beating season MVP Aljun Melecio’s De La Salle Zobel in the finals.

While Baltazar committed to the Green Archers, Clemente stayed with the Bulldogs program despite offers from other universities. 

“Because NU gave me the opportunity to play here in Manila, that’s why I was loyal to NU ever since,” he said, recalling his decision to move seven years ago. 

It was fitting that Clemente’s high school mentor, Jeff Napa, would eventually become his head coach in the college ranks as well. 

Along with an on-the-rise core of collegiate standouts, Clemente and Napa helped National U make its return to the UAAP Final Four in Season 85, pushing then defending champion University of the Philippines to the brink in their semifinal encounter. 

NU should be expected to be a championship contender in Season 86 as one of the league’s “big boys.” 

Although the loss of Clemente, who was still suiting up for the Bulldogs in preseason games recently, will be a challenge to overcome. 

“Yes, coach Jeff understands, he is already like my second father, and he gives me advice about my decisions,” Clemente shared about breaking the news to his mentor.

During his four seasons in the UAAP, Clemente established himself as a respectable mid-range shooter, averaging a team-high 10.5 points to go with 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals a contest last season. He also shot 36% from the field, including 47% from inside the arc and 77% from the foul line.

Omar John, the Bulldogs’ foreign student-athlete, told Rappler that he believes even as Clemente heads the pros, NU can still be a title contender given the new talent that’s also entering the program’s UAAP roster.

That new talent pool includes superb rookie and UAAP juniors MVP Reinhard Jumamoy, talented combo guard LA Casinillo, and steady playmaker Donn Lim. – 

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