Jhan Nermal: An Unexpected PBA Career

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Jhan Nermal

Jhan Nermal’s Journey from MPBL to the PBA

Playing unorganized basketball in the province, NLEX rookie Jhan Nermal never imagined that he would someday crack a spot in the team’s roster in the Philippine Basketball Association. But with perseverance and dedication, his doubts became real, and he never imagined that he would get the fruit of his labors.

Back in his high school days in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, Nermal would even have a hard time making it to the lineup of their Intramurals team. He was short and thin and rejected every time he tried out.

Jhan Nermal being welcomed by the NLEX Management (Image source)

He only made the team in high school during his senior year, but he would often ride the bench. With his basketball career not on the right foot, Nermal enrolled in a six-month welding course at TESDA after graduating high school. He did so because his parents couldn’t afford to take him to college.

He recalled how he cried whenever there was little food on the table. He had his OJT as a welder and then took different jobs in construction work, mixing cement, hauling heavy materials by hand, and doing whatever it took to earn P250 a day. Despite his hard work during the day, Nermal still found time to play basketball at night. He unexpectedly grew up to 6-3 and learned how to use his height in the game of hoops.

An enticing offer finally came to him after West Negros University saw his potential, and he didn’t think twice to grab the opportunity. The Mustangs had already produced former PBA players in Yves Dignadice, Noy Baclao, and Raul Soyud, and Nermal wants to follow the path of the former West Negros greats.

He would play in three of his six years at West Negros. Looking for more opportunities, Nermal decided to try his luck in Manila in 2019. Because he got used to provincial life, Nermal found city life too stressful, traffic was brutal, and lines at the MRT were too long. With these hurdles, he thought of returning home. But MPBL knocked on his doorstep, so he took this path. He played for Bulacan, Bacolod, and Bacoor in three MPBL seasons and juggled in a stint with San Miguel Beer in the PBA 3×3.

Despite being 30 years old, Bacoor coach Alex Angeles and veteran teammate Mark Yee encouraged him to apply for the PBA draft last year. He was hesitant because of his rejection during high school and thought he would not pass playing in the first professional league in Asia.

But with nothing to lose in applying for the PBA Draft, he put his name in it. But with Draft Day getting close, Nermal’s doubts came again, and he thought of backing out. He never played for a Manila school so that he couldn’t have been scouted seriously. Finally, Nermal decided to push through with it.

During Draft Day, NLEX selected him in the second round and the 21st overall pick. He couldn’t believe it initially and expected to be undrafted or picked in the late rounds.

With his unexpected dream finally happening, Nermal would juggle his time with MPBL, with whom he still commits to Bacoor, and his practice with NLEX. He would practice at eight in the morning and then drive two hours to Bacoor for training with the Strikers. He slept at the Bacoor gym and woke up at 4:30 a.m. to commute to UP for NLEX practice. 

After his stint in the MPBL, Nermal joined the Road Warriors for the Commissioner’s Cup with four games to go. He averaged an outstanding 10.2 points in 16.8 minutes of play per game.

In the ongoing Philippine Cup, Nermal’s role did not decline, and he is one of the key players off the bench. He is currently averaging 9.5 points in 18.7 minutes per game. Jan Nermal said adjusting from the MPBL to the PBA is hard, but coach Frankie Lim and his teammates guided him. Nermal added that he would go all-in in every game to provide for his family. 

He has two children, one from a previous relationship and another with his wife. Nermal has a dual purpose: to give back to those who’ve cared for him since his early years of struggle and to secure a bright future for his loved ones through his basketball career. He’s making it happen. Nermal’s journey only showed that despite his early rejection in his basketball career, he persevered to become what he is now.

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Ed Umbao

Founder of PhilNews.xyz | co-Founder of PhilNews.ph

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