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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga’s Ryan Nembhard named to Naismith Award watch list

As Gonzaga Ryan Nembhard (0) looks to the basket, Lewis and Clark State guard MaCarhy Morris (0) reaches for the ball during the first half of a NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023, in the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga’s Ryan Nembhard was one of 50 players named Monday to the watch list for the Naismith Award, which is presented annually to the best college basketball player in the country.

Nembhard, a transfer from Creighton, becomes the first Gonzaga guard named to the Naismith watch list since his older brother Andrew – a former GU standout who’s now in his second season with the Indiana Pacers – was selected to the preseason top-50 list prior to the 2021-22 college basketball season.

The Bulldogs had multiple preseason Naismith selections each of the last four seasons – including four players in 2020-21 – and Gonzaga’s placed at least one player on the list every year since 2006.

Nembhard, a 6-foot, 175-pound point guard from Aurora, Ontario, averaged 12.1 points per game, 4.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds during his sophomore season at Creighton. He poured in a career-high 30 points for the Bluejays in a second-round NCAA Tournament win over Baylor and led Creighton all the way to the Elite Eight, where they eventually lost to national runner-up San Diego State.

After shooting 40% from the field and 31% during his freshman season at Creighton, Nembhard improved in both statistical categories last season, making 43% of his shots from the field and 35% from behind the 3-point arc.

Nembhard is set to make his official debut in a Gonzaga uniform on Friday against Yale after dishing out 10 assists and committing just one turnover in a 96-58 exhibition win over Lewis-Clark State last Friday at McCarthey Athletic Center.

The Creighton transfer has already been named to the All-West Coast Conference Preseason Team along with the watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to college basketball’s top point guard.

Gonzaga’s set to play a handful of preseason Naismith watch list selections during its challenging nonconference schedule, including UConn’s Donovan Clingan, USCs Isaiah Collier and Boogie Ellis, Purdue’s Zach Edey and Kentucky’s Justin Edwards.

Depending how things shake out at the Maui Invitational, the Bulldogs could also face UCLA’s Adem Bona, Kansas’ trio of Hunter Dickinson, Dajuan Harris Jr. and Kevin McCullar Jr., Syracuse’s Judah Mintz, Marquette’s Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek or Tennessee’s Santiago Vescovi in second- or third-round games in Honolulu.

The only other West Coast Conference player to make the preseason list was Saint Mary’s guard Aidan Mahaney, who emerged as one of the top players in the league during a breakout freshman season in 2022-23.

Former Gonzaga center Oumar Ballo, now at Arizona, also made the Naismith watch list.