John Lloyd Clemente is finally catching attention in the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The 6-foot-3 small forward provided 21 points and four rebounds to propel the National University Bulldogs to an 88-61 victory over the University of the East Red Warriors, Saturday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay
“Yung breakout game ko ngayon, yun na feel ko lang na kada-shoot ko pasok lahat eh.
“Parang ang laki ng ring para sa akin ngayong araw na ito eh. Feeling ko talaga gagawa talaga ako ngayon eh. Tsaka sa mga teammates ko din, hinahinap nila ako, kaya ayun,” said Clemente.
It has been a long time coming for Clemente. The homegrown star did not compete in last year’s UAAP Juniors campaign because his eligibility had expired. Not that he was idle, though.
“Para sa akin ang laking tulong nun kasi kahit high school pa lang ako nakapaglaro na ako sa Team B ng college. Kalaban namin iba’t ibang team like ibang team A,” said the player commonly referred to as JLC.
“Magandang experience yun kasi alam ko na kung paano gumalaw sa college, anong experience kaya ayun laking tulong sa akin yun.”
While Clemente was the main protagonist in this game, his batchmate Dave Ildefonso has hogged most of the headlines for NU this season. The Pampanga native himself is a prized recruit for the NU program, but he has no complaints about the lack of attention.
“Para sa akin wala namang pressure. Nage-enjoy naman kaming dalawang maglaro, magkasama.
“Five years pa kami magkakasama niyan ni Dave eh kaya sa mga susunod na game namin, yung connection namin kailangan maging matibay pa tsaka sa ibang teammates namin,” said Clemente.
That’s not to say, though, that there isn’t any friendly competition between Clemente and the former Ateneo Blue Eaglet in their scrimmages. In fact, it is both players’ determination to push each other that has proven effective for their growth.
“Minsan nagbabantayan kami ni Dave eh lalo na ‘pag sa one-on-one. Parang yun, naghahamunan kami. Gawin mo yung gusto mong gawin, babantayan kita. Ganun. Kaya pagdating sa laro, parang enjoy-enjoy naman kami,” shared the 20-year-old.
It has been a painful season so far for the Bulldogs. Before this victory, they lost five straight games and their only other win was against the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in the opening day of their campaign.
The former Bullpup led NU in its loss against the FEU Tamaraws with 15 markers and he led them once again today with 21 markers. While Clemente has had two headline showings so far, he knows he still has his work cut out for him, especially as there are seven more games in the elimination round.
“Nag-extra work pa ako lalo kasi talo (against FEU) eh kahit leading scorer ako. Pero kailangan pa rin magsipag kasi malayo pa ang season. Ngayon pa lang tapos ang first round kaya madami pang kakalabanin kaya lalo magsipag, mag-hard work pa para manalo.”