One of the top point guards in the 2018 recruiting class, Andrew Nembhard has had a busy spring taking part in the Jordan Brand Classic, Nike Hoop Summit, and finally an event called the North Pole Hoops Signature All-Canadian Showcase. Put on by Canadian basketball recruiting service North Pole Hoops, Nembhard was one of the featured players alongside Montverde teammate and #1 player in the class RJ Barrett as well as 5-Star Arizona State commit Lugentz Dort. Playing in Mississauga, Ontario (only a short drive from his hometown of Aurora, Ontario) to round out the spring, this was the final high school game of Nembhard’s career before heading to Gainesville and the final opportunity to see where he’s at in his development before he is fully turned over to the Gators’ coaching staff. Here is how he played and what we learned.
After watching Nembhard a handful of times the past month I’ve already come to expect the extraordinary from him when it comes to distributing the ball. Whether it’s rifling the ball into the post off a swing, dishing a pocket pass on the screen and roll, or sending a 60 foot hit ahead pass off a defensive rebound, his immaculate passing skill is demonstrated with such regularity that it becomes expected. He made multiple big men look like NBA All-Stars all night, spoon-feeding them easy dunks as he attracted help before flicking a pass on the money for an uncontested flush. Gators fans got very used to top-tier passing from their point guards with Chris Chiozza at the helm and they can expect a similar caliber of distribution from Nembhard. Get ready to be regularly spoiled with gorgeous passing ability.
Playing near his hometown in the final game of his high school career we saw a different side of Nembhard, one where he looked to create his own shot more often than we’d normally see from the pass-first guard. Though he doesn’t possess a lot of flash or straight-line explosiveness he is able to attack closeouts when they’re there and keep his dribble alive when dribbling towards the hoop with a player on his hip. If there is going to be a problem with Nembhard at the college level, at least as a freshman, it could be his ability to score. Without great athleticism or a lightning-quick crossover he doesn’t have the ability to create much one-on-one and that could be a problem at times in late clock situations or solo creation scenarios. Though Nembhard is an elite passer out of the pick and roll I think you’ll see SEC teams not play much help defense, taking away his ability to pass to an open man and instead forcing him to try to score himself. That means if he can’t score himself it could even hinder his passing ability. His lack of explosiveness was also seen on three separate occasions where he had a layup blocked at the rim, plays where he didn’t get off the floor high enough to avoid the fingertips of a helping post player. I’m sure strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene will be able to really help Nembhard in this area down the line but as a freshman expect him to have some issues finishing at the cup early.
Nembhard is aware of the areas he needs to get better and worked them a bit in this game shooting 2-5 from the three-point line and hitting a confident midrange jumper off of a baseline out of bounds set similar to one that Florida ran for Chiozza last year. His jump shot still is still too “loud” (has too many moving parts) and could use a dose more fluidity but I’m hoping by the time the Fall rolls around he’ll have worked himself towards being a fairly dependable shooter who can knock down the open shot when it’s there. I’m encouraged by the fact that Michael Okauru shot the ball so well last season (40.4% from three) after being a player known in high school to not be able to shoot whatsoever. Though expecting Nembhard to shoot 40% from three would be incredibly lofty I hope he can at least follow in Okauru’s footsteps by being a better shooter coming in than what was anticipated.
We got to see Nembhard take on a huge defensive assignment as he was given the task of guarding his Montverde running mate RJ Barrett. With Barrett having a massive size advantage, Nembhard did about as well as could be expected moving his feet in front of such a physically imposing wing and did well to contest a lot of his pull-up jump shots. However, he still gave up a good deal of dribble drives and it wasn’t just to the #1 ranked Barrett but to a few of the less-heralded guards in the game. This doesn’t come down to effort, but it is another area where it’s apparent Nembhard isn’t a plus athlete. Is he a pylon defensively? No, absolutely not, but this could be an area he has some challenges in as he makes his way through his freshman season consisting of an extremely difficult non-conference schedule and a grueling SEC slate. Many people, including myself, are fully expecting Nembhard to challenge for a starter spot and if he doesn’t get it I think it’s his defense that makes Coach White look in a different direction. A hard worker and a player with great IQ I don’t expect him to struggle defensively his whole career or anything like that but it could be a possible hurdle in his freshman season.
I love the way he communicated on the floor vocally both on the defensive and offensive sides of the basketball. This was an area that Florida lacked in last season and it’s an area Nembhard is sure to improve. Not only is communicating necessary to getting into offense and defending properly but it shows leadership and the way Nembhard talks shows me he has the characteristics of a leader, the characteristics you need in a floor general.
With the spring showcase season finished, the next time you’ll see Andrew Nembhard play is in orange and blue!