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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard declares for NBA draft, exhausts college eligibility

UPDATED: Thu., April 21, 2022

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Andrew Nembhard (3) pleads for a score on a drive where he shot the ball and was fouled late during the second half of a Sweet 16 game on Thursday Mar 24, 2022, at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif. The Arkansas Razorbacks won the game 74-68.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Andrew Nembhard (3) pleads for a score on a drive where he shot the ball and was fouled late during the second half of a Sweet 16 game on Thursday Mar 24, 2022, at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif. The Arkansas Razorbacks won the game 74-68. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Andrew Nembhard had the option to return to Gonzaga for a fifth college basketball season, but the Bulldogs’ senior point guard and Bob Cousy Award finalist announced on social media Thursday morning he plans to declare for the 2022 NBA Draft.

Unlike teammates Drew Timme and Julian Strawther, who also declared for the draft while maintaining their college eligibility, Nembhard is ineligible to return to school after entering his name in the draft for the third time. The point guard also declared following his 2019 and 2020 seasons at Florida.

“Coming to Gonzaga was truly one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I am so grateful for this place,” Nembhard wrote on Instagram. “I am thankful and blessed to be a part of teams with so much success and accomplishments but nothing compares to all the relationships I have made over these last two years that will last me a lifetime.

“With that being said I have decided to enter my name into the 2022 NBA draft and fulfill my dream of playing in the league.”

Nembhard, Strawther and Timme are the only Gonzaga players who’ve announced plans to enter the draft approximately one month after the Bulldogs’ season-ending loss to Arkansas and Nembhard’s announcement ensures Mark Few will have to replace at least one member of his starting five come 2022-23.

In two seasons with the Bulldogs, Nembhard bloomed into one of the country’s top point guards, transferring from Florida after starting 67 games for the Gators as a freshman and sophomore.

Nembhard averaged 10.5 points, 5.1 assists and 1.5 turnovers in his two seasons at Gonzaga and developed his 3-point shot, making 32% in 2020-21 before improving to 38% in 2021-22. The Ontario became a full-time starter for Few midway through his junior season as Gonzaga transitioned to a smaller lineup and started in all 32 games as a senior.

Teammates and coaches routinely referred to Nembhard as the best point guard in the country during a season that saw him score more than 20 points on five occasions and dish out double-digit assists four times.

Nembhard was superb in No. 1 Gonzaga’s 83-63 win over No. 2 UCLA in Las Vegas, scoring 24 points to go with six assists and five rebounds, and he totaled a career-high 14 assists in an 86-66 win at Pepperdine.

During a season when the Bulldogs often went as their starting point guard went, Gonzaga saw its season end on a below-average night from Nembhard, who went just 2-of-11 and scored seven points with three assists and five turnovers in the Sweet 16 loss to Arkansas.

Of entering the NBA Draft, Nembhard told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony on Thursday “This is my time. It’s time to let the young guys take over the program. In this draft I feel like I’m among the top. There are not many point guards in this class that can impact the game in a winning sense in the way I can. I’ve gotten feedback and did the things the NBA told me I needed to do to take the next step. I’m ready.”

A recent NBA Draft Big Board published by Tankathon lists Nembhard at No. 58, higher than GU teammates Timme (No. 63) and Strawther (No. 64). A similar list published by USA Today’s For the Win website almost a month ago lists Nembhard at No. 77, behind Chet Holmgren (No. 1), Strawther (No. 26) and Timme (No. 70).

Nembhard is thought to have good size for his position at 6-foot-5 and told Givony he spent the offseason between his junior and senior years working on his ability to run Gonzaga’s up-tempo offense. He was named to the postseason West Coast Conference First Team, earned WCC Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors and was one of three finalists for the Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.

“Going into my senior year I did a lot of offseason work, getting my body right, improving my quickness and speed,” Nembhard told Givony. “Early in my career I was looked at as a guy that couldn’t play fast; I think I showed a different side of me this season. When the opportunity presented itself, I showed I could make plays and carry my team offensively, including as a scorer. I’m super excited to show teams more. How lethal I can be in pick-and-roll situations. Also in isolation situations I’m growing. My game is getting a lot better.”

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