Andrew Nembhard wasn’t even supposed to play this season. Instead, he became the leading assist man in Gonzaga tournament history. And we get him back in Spokane for another year.
When it was announced that Nembhard would be eligible hours before Gonzaga tipped off the season against Kansas, expectations went from “Final Four potential” to “National Championship favorites”. Without him, Gonzaga very likely would have had a loss or two heading into the NCAA Tournament.
It took him a couple games to get acclimated into the system. He did not practice much with the rotation players during the Fall because he was expecting to redshirt. He had four turnovers against Auburn as he worked through the kinks. That was the only game all year where he had more turnovers than assists.
He broke out against West Virginia. When Jalen Suggs went down with an ankle injury, Nembhard willed that team to a victory. He finished with a season-high 19 points and six assists and had the ball in his hands in every big play down the stretch. It was at that point everyone realized there was something special there.
Eventually, Nembhard jumped into the starting lineup. He is arguably the greatest player Gonzaga has ever had in ball screens. His passing ability is off the charts, as he uses angles and deceives defenses with his eyes. He can also finish at the rim and pull up from mid-range. It’s the complete package when you’re looking at a point guard. His 3.59 assist-to-turnover ratio was sixth in the nation. His eight assists against both Creighton and UCLA are tied for the second most by any Gonzaga player in an NCAA Tournament game. His 31 total assists in the Tournament are most ever by a Zag in a single tournament.
He gets to do it all again next season with another stacked roster. He already has fantastic chemistry with Drew Timme and Anton Watson. Chet Holmgren will add another dynamic layer to their ball screen actions. If Nembhard continues to improve his three-point shot, he can be an NBA-level talent.
With Suggs off to the NBA, Nembhard is the only true point guard on the roster as of right now. Dominick Harris and Hunter Sallis can both pick up ball handling duties, but are true combo guards. Nembhard will be the maestro of the whole offense next season, and if this year was any indication of what’s to come, Gonzaga is staring at another trip to the final weekend.