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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Indiana selects Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard with first pick of the second round

June 23, 2022 Updated Thu., June 23, 2022 at 9:47 p.m.

Former Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard comes off a screen during an NBA Draft Combine scrimmage in May.  (Spokesman-Review Wire Archive)
Former Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard comes off a screen during an NBA Draft Combine scrimmage in May. (Spokesman-Review Wire Archive)

Andrew Nembhard’s game plan for Thursday’s NBA draft was Nembhard-esque: Solid, nothing too flashy but highly effective.

It began with nine holes of golf with dad, Claude, getting up a few shots on the driveway hoop at the family home in Aurora, about 30 minutes north of Toronto, before picking up his suit and squeezing in a few media interviews. Then it was off to a restaurant for dinner before watching the draft unfold on television monitors with about 20 relatives and close friends.

“Low key, Nembhard style,” Claude said Thursday morning, “but he’ll be with his family and friends.”

It probably wasn’t quite as low key in the restaurant on one of the biggest days in Nembhard’s young life when the Indiana Pacers selected the former Gonzaga standout with the first pick of the second round (31st overall).

“He has the ability to facilitate,” said ESPN’s Jay Bilas, shortly after the selection was announced. “He can be a scorer and a passer, and he’s an elite passer. In his pick-and-roll situations, he is surgical. He comes off, makes great reads. He’s a very good on-ball defender that defends pick-and-roll very well.

“One of the criticisms of him at Florida was he didn’t play fast enough. Then he goes to Gonzaga and he was with one of the most high-powered offenses and ran the break. I thought he could have easily been a first-round pick.”

Nembhard joins a Pacers squad that finished 25-57 last season, 13th out of 15 Eastern Conference teams, and a backcourt that includes Tyrese Halliburton, acquired in a multiplayer trade in February that sent former Zag Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento. Other ball-handling guards on the roster include veteran Ricky Rubio, T.J. McConnell and Malcolm Brogdon, who has been mentioned in trade rumors.

Indiana also drafted Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin with the sixth pick. When Nembhard played for Canada’s senior national team a few years ago, he scrimmaged against Mathurin, who was raised in Montreal. Nembhard’s younger brother, Ryan, was teammates with Mathurin on Canadian junior national teams.

Nembhard, 22, concluded his predraft workouts Monday with the Miami Heat before returning home to Canada. It’s been a busy, but productive few months for Nembhard since the Zags’ loss in the Sweet 16 in March.

The 6-foor-4, 195-pound guard’s performances at the NBA draft combine and in workouts, coupled with his size and court awareness, helped him climb up draft rankings. He had 26 points and 11 assists in a combine scrimmage.

“I think he was able to show people what he can do,” Claude said. “He had a great combine and the agency we deal with has been very good. People are seeing who he is and who we know he is, and the whole sense of his game. He had a lot of good workouts.”

Nembhard set career highs in points (11.8), assists (5.8), 3-point percentage (38.3) and free-throw percentage (87.3) in his senior season at Gonzaga. He was named MVP of the conference tournament after scoring 36 points, handing out 15 assists and committing just two turnovers in a pair of wins.

Gonzaga has had 10 players drafted since 2016, including Nembhard and Chet Holmgren, who went second overall to Oklahoma City. Of those 10, only Nemhbard and Corey Kispert (15th overall in 2021) were seniors.

The Nembhard family might have to plan another draft party in a year or two. Ryan Nemhbard had a solid freshman season with Creighton before suffering a broken wrist in February. He’s recovered from wrist surgery and he’s training with Canada’s U23 team in Toronto, so he was able to be with Andrew on draft night.

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