From the moment former five-star point guard Andrew Nembhard announced his commitment to the Florida Gators, excitement around the program started to build for what he could bring to the team.
He’s only been on campus a few months, but he already has head coach Mike White raving about his outstanding abilities.
Nembhard is not a huge scoring threat, but he doesn’t have to be. He finds the people who are. White is confident that he will not only be one of the best passers in a very talented SEC this season, but one of the best in the entire country.
“He’ll have a chance to be in the conversation to be one of the better passers in college basketball,” White said of the freshman. “Who knows how many assists that means, how many highlights he produces, how many minutes he’ll play. I’m not sure. But that is his gift.”
Nembhard has some big shoes to fill as he comes in a year removed from one of the very best point guards to ever play for the Gators. Chris Chiozza ended his career as one of the most accomplished passers in the nation, and the crazy thing is, Nembhard may be even better.
No matter how amazing it was to watch Chiozza make insane no-look passes nearly every game, Nembhard has something Chiozza could never have, and that is size. At 6’5, he stands nearly half a foot taller than his predecessor.
That is an automatic advantage when it comes to passing the ball.
“He sees the game at a high level,” White said. “He’s a split-second thinker. Again, he’s very intelligent. Not only is he an elite passer, he’s an elite passer with size, which makes it even a little bit easier for him to deliver some passes that other guys with equal vision can’t deliver.”
Those kinds of comments from his coach, along with the high expectations from fans who followed his recruitment, are a lot to put on a young kid’s shoulders. Then again, he’s been playing in high-pressure situations for a while now.
It hasn’t gotten to him yet, and he doesn’t expect it to start now.
“I’m cool with the expectations,” Nembhard said. “I don’t really feel any pressure. I’m just trying to come in and do whatever I can to help the team. I think we have a great group of guys.”
Nembhard is expected to get the starting nod, but whether he starts or not, the Gators will rely heavily on him immediately. That means White and his staff must work to simplify the game for him and make him as comfortable as possible as he gets his first minutes at the college level.
White said he does not expect him to be a vocal or emotional leader, at least not this year, but he wants him to lead by becoming a director of traffic when he is in the game.
Right now, it is all about building his confidence, even if that means working through a few freshman mistakes.
“He’s going to have to play through mistakes,” White said. “And continue to breed confidence as much as possible, and of course, have an open line of communication, not only with staff, but with myself on a daily basis. At the same time, ride him. Let him do what he does, because it’s not like he’s a huge work in progress. Andrew is a very talented young man, and he’s a high-level passer, he’s a very high-level IQ guy and he’s going to be a really good player.”
Nembhard will lead a group of freshmen who are all expected to contribute this season. It should be fun to watch him grow and continue to develop in his time at Florida.