Andrew Nembhard’s summer has been a busy one with most of his time from late-July until now spent with the Canadian Senior Men’s National Team. Fortunately for the Gators but unfortunately for the Canucks Andrew Nembhard’s time with the National Team is finished as a disappointing performance saw Canada go 2-3 and not advance to the playoff rounds. Continuing to the quarterfinals would have meant even more time Nembhard would need to spend away from Gainesville but with Canada’s elimination it looks like he’ll be getting back to class.
Nembhard’s Performance By The Numbers
I’ll present to you his numbers in each game before getting into a bit of theory I have. Here we go.
As you can see, Nembhard didn’t get much run.
I find this fairly fishy considering he played major minutes in Canada’s 7 exhibitions leading up to the event. Now, the NBA’s Cory Joseph didn’t play in these contests but did join the team for the actual World Cup so his presence definitely took away from Nembhard’s role a bit but still, Nembhard went from starters’ minutes to hardly getting on the floor.
That was, at least, until the final two games Canada played against Jordan and Germany.
Here’s a bit of backstory to the relevancy of some of these games. Canada losing their first 2 games to Australia and Lithuania meant they weren’t going to advance to the next round. Their 3rd game against Senegal was mostly obsolete as Senegal was one of the weaker teams at the event and a win against them was (mostly) inevitable. After those initial 3 pool games they were slated to play Jordan and Germany in another mini-pool where the top teams would earn a spot in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament next summer.
Hold on, I’m getting to my point and it relates to Nembhard.
There was no way Canada was going deep in this tournament with the roster they had and they knew it. What they were really realistically playing for was a slot in next summer’s Olympic qualifying event.
Now, in those first games where they were almost certain to lose, Nembhard hardly played. But, when it got to the games that really mattered against Jordan and Germany Nembhard was back in the rotation playing a big role.
This makes me think that Nembhard was on some form of minute restriction. I’m not sure why else they would have left him on the bench against Australia and Lithuania despite being one of their best players throughout the exhibition games, only to play him in a big role once the games really mattered to them. I haven’t been able to confirm this with anyone from Canada Basketball, but the theory looks sound to me.
For those who may have missed it Nembhard went down with a lower-body injury in their second last exhibition game against Australia. It looked nasty in the moment but he seemed fine as a few days later he took on USA in an exhibition and looked great. After the injury many were wondering if Nembhard was going to remain with Canada but ultimately he stayed, although he played the much tinier role we’ve talked about. Could it be that he remained with Canada but only under the condition he wouldn’t extend himself too much? Maybe. I’m not sure why else Canada would leave one of their best players on the pine while they rolled out multiple lesser guards. It might also be the reason we Nembhard play exactly 17 minutes in each of the important games. That’s my explanation of why I don’t think we saw Nembhard play more, but let’s get in to what he did when he did hit the hardwood.
One thing that was great about Nembhard’s summer with Team Canada was that it wasn’t just these 5 games at the World Cup he got to play but the 7 exhibitions he got to partake in, all against really good competition. That’s a lot of quality basketball that should have him totally prepared for when he gets back to NCAA hoops.
In terms of how he played at the World Cup I’d mostly look at the 2 games at the end where he got in for 17 minutes a piece.
Nembhard was really passing the ball at a high level, something that will shock exactly 0 of you reading this due to how well he distributed last year. What was nice about his passing for Canada was that a lot of his assists were off him getting deep into the paint after beating his primary defender off the dribble. There is a lot more deception to Nembhard’s dribble game than we saw last season and he had defenders looking foolish with some hard in and out dribbles or simple crossovers that were made so effective by him due to his length and positional size.
Finishing strong on the inside was a skill Nembhard was definitely working hard at this summer and he put it on display taking a lot of hard contact from some stout big men on Germany and still finishing. The Gators are going to need Nembhard to get to the rim and finish and he was able to do it against some really good pros, certainly an encouraging sign.
Noticeably quicker moving side-to-side Nembhard was tasked with some tough defensive assignments and I think he is vastly improved on that side of the ball. He had some difficulty staying in front of some of the SEC’s best guards last season but seeing his improved mobility throughout the summer I’m seeing a much better perimeter defender.
Another encouraging sign was the pace Nembhard was playing with. Whenever Canada secured a defensive rebound and was able to hit Nembhard with an outlet pass he got into the open floor and forced defenses to react, something Coach White would love to see more as that element of the game has been absent in Florida basketball as of late. Incredibly smooth in transition Nembhard was either pushing the ball quickly up the floor to a wing or taking it all the way into the teeth of the defense and no matter what the defense did he remained poised and made the right play, never getting out of control or forcing any bad turnovers. Playing FIBA basketball with a 24 second shot clock with a 14 second reset made for some great pace and if the Gators accelerate their tempo this year, which they almost certainly will do, Nembhard will be more than comfortable.
Lastly, I thought the fact that Canada’s coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors trusted Nembhard to play a key role at big times in their most important games really speaks to his maturity. Once again, this won’t shock many people who saw him play last season but there were a lot of experienced guards that Nembhard got the nod over in clutch time. Florida is bound to play in some big games this year and Nembhard’s ability to come through in the clutch could only be helped by an experience like this one at the FIBA World Cup. Now that it’s done, we can start looking towards how he’ll do in orange and blue instead of red and white.