Written by Chris Kubala
As anyone that hasn’t been living under a rock can attest to, this has been a rough year for professional and collegiate sports. The NBA and NHL paused their seasons in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic while major league baseball delayed the start of their season and are finally expected to take the field in a shortened 60-game slate beginning in late July. Meanwhile, the NFL plans business as usual but canceled the preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game between the Cowboys and Steelers while also pushing off the induction of the 2020 Hall of Fame class to next year. Even NASCAR and the PGA Tour were paused before getting started again in mid-May for NASCAR and early June for the PGA.
That doesn’t even begin to touch what happened in college basketball, where the season was ended abruptly thanks to the coronavirus. There were conference tournaments that were interrupted, while the NCAA Tournament, the NIT, the CBI and the CIT were all canceled. Some players saw their careers end in the blink of an eye without getting a chance to walk off the floor for the last time, knowing it was over. That doesn’t cover the flood of guys attempting to transfer in hopes of playing next season without having to sit out the 2020-21 campaign. One of those players was former Florida point guard Andrew Nembhard, who announced back in May that he was leaving the program after two seasons in search of greener pastures.
Nembhard had originally hired an agent and declared for the NBA Draft but pulled out of the draft last month. Last week, he announced that he had made a decision on his new destination as he chose Mark Few and Gonzaga to finish his collegiate career. Nembhard is expected to sit out the 2020-21 season and be eligible for the 2021-22 campaign, at which point he will have two years of eligibility remaining. According to ESPN’s rankings, he was the #2 sit-out transfer in the country, behind only former Wake Forest center Olivier Sarr, who transferred to Kentucky after coach Danny Manning was fired.
Nembhard started all 31 games at the point for Florida last season. He averaged 11.2 points, three rebounds and 5.6 assists per game last season. Nembhard shot just 44.1 percent from the field, though that was more due to a weak perimeter shooting performance as he connected on only 30.8 percent from beyond the arc. That was an improvement over the 41.4 percent he shot from the floor as a freshman, though he was much better from three-point range (34.7 percent) in 2018-19 than he was last year. All told, Nembhard started all 67 games that he played at Florida, averaging 9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He shot 42.8 percent from the floor, including 32.7 percent from beyond the arc, and connected on 77 percent of his attempts at the line.
With Gonzaga bringing in Jalen Suggs this season to run the point and the very real potential that he’s going to be a one and done type of player, taking the year to get acclimated to Few’s system would prove beneficial for Nembhard. He’ll get a chance to learn the system and interact with Few along with his teammates, then, should Suggs depart after one season, step right into the starting job in 2021-22. As it stands right now, he’s considered a fringe NBA candidate but if he can work on his perimeter shooting over the next couple years with the Bulldogs, that could easily change.
Playing at Gonzaga could prove to be a major boost for Nembhard, as the Bulldogs have had great success under Few when it comes to cultivating transfers into top-tier players. In recent seasons, Nigel Williams-Goss made the in-state jump from Washington to Gonzaga and led the Bulldogs to the national title game before falling. After that, Brandon Clarke transferred from San Jose State and parlayed his success with Gonzaga into being a mid-first round pick in the NBA Draft this past season by Memphis. With the way the Bulldogs recruit, Nembhard could be the veteran presence around a group of blue-chip prospects when he takes over the team.
He has the talent to be successful. Now, Nembhard is presented with an excellent opportunity to really make a name for himself, even if it’s a year from now. How he takes advantage of the situation will ultimately determine his success, both at the collegiate and the pro level.