Former Gonzaga great Andrew Nembhard watching out for Creighton and younger brother Ryan in March Madness
March 18, 2023 Updated Sat., March 18, 2023 at 9:50 p.m.
DENVER – Creighton sophomore point guard Ryan Nembhard had two things on his mind after a first-round NCAA Tournament win Friday over North Carolina State.
One almost certainly was going to happen – a postgame phone call to older brother Andrew, former Gonzaga standout point guard now with the Indiana Pacers.
“He told me he was going to be watching my game,” Ryan said. “We talk all the time. I’ll probably call him right after this. He’s doing really well. He loves the Zags and he’s super happy he went there.”
Ryan wanted to stick around and watch the Gonzaga-Grand Canyon game that was up next at Ball Arena but acknowledged that was unlikely because the Bluejays had a full itinerary of rest and preparation for Sunday’s game with third-seeded Baylor.
The brothers have different body types – Ryan is 6-foot and 170 pounds while Andrew is listed at 6-3 and 191 pounds – but possess similar games.
“We’re just different because he’s a little bigger,” Ryan said. “I’m a little smaller, so I have to play the game a different way. I feel like I use my quickness a little bit more. We have a lot of similarities, too, in terms of vision, play-making and poise.”
They played together once when Andrew was in seventh grade and Ryan was in fourth with dad, Claude, serving as coach.
Claude and wife Mary were in the stands for Creighton’s win, and they’ve made several trips to catch Andrew’s games, including the NBA Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City.
“It was like a family affair,” Ryan said of being teammates with Andrew. “He’s big brother, so he was always trying to get on me about my mistakes, but it was cool.”
That continues to present day, but Ryan welcomes Andrew’s advice, and vice versa.
“He’s always giving me little tidbits, pieces of advice,” Ryan said. “He’s been through so much and he’s played a lot of different styles of basketball. I think I help by making little jokes around him, ‘He can’t guard me.’ He gets the 1-on-1s, but I’m going to try to change that soon.
“He’s playing at a high level. He can always teach me.”
Ryan had 10 points, three assists and no turnovers against North Carolina State. He averages 11.9 points and 4.9 assists. Andrew, who has started 51 of 63 games, averages 8.5 points and 4.0 assists in his rookie season with the Pacers.
“You talk about a super smart point guard who can see the floor and can facilitate for a team,” Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner said.
“It’s wild, a lot of times I’ll look at him and just give him a little hand signal and he knows what I’m talking about. We have that connection.”
Ryan was the Big East Freshman of the Year last season, but he missed the NCAA Tournament due to a broken wrist .
“It was tough watching it,” said Ryan, who is optimistic the sixth-seeded Bluejays can make an extended run in March Madness. “I’m super glad I’m getting a chance now to play in March. It’s something I dreamed about as a kid.”
Both brothers made their dreams become a reality.
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