Andrew Nembhard caught a pass on the left wing at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont., one day before the FIBA U18 Americas tournament was set to begin, and calmly drilled a three.
His squad ran the play three times more, and he launched daggers from the same spot.
The opposing squad took the ball and played until it missed a shot.
Then Nembhard, a wily veteran at 18 and captain of Team Canada, took over again.
He was, in the brief stretches open to media, exactly what a captain should be: assertive on offence, tenacious on defence, level-headed throughout.
Nembhard is quiet but confident and well-spoken, a five-star recruit known as much for the strength of his character as for his impressive skill set.
This is exactly the kind of role he ought to be in, guiding an elite team as it tries to qualify for the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup.
But there were no guarantees he would be here at all.
A little more than a year ago, Nembhard, a star point guard at Montverde Academy near Orlando, fell ill and was rushed into surgery at a Florida hospital.
He was reportedly dealing with volvulus, a twisting of the intestines that causes an intestinal obstruction. Doctors removed a portion of his intestines, and he went into septic shock.
“Going through it, you don’t think you’re going to die,” said Nembhard in an interview with BasketballBuzz.
“You just kind of go through it with a positive mindset. Other people around me—especially my father [Claude], was keeping a really positive mindset with me.
“We were always talking about how I’m going to be back on the court really soon, how everything’s going to be fine.”
Within a few months he was back with Montverde, helping fellow Canadian R.J. Barrett lift the team to a 35-0 record and a national U.S. high school championship.
Now he’s here, Captain Canada, ready to take on the world.
“I just feel blessed, and just grateful that I had such a great supporting cast around me when I was going through a tough time,” he said.
“And I think all these blessings that have come to me [are] because I’ve been working hard. [With] the support of others, I’ve gotten to this point.”
Nembhard is a key player on a Canadian team favoured to contend in and possibly win the U18 Americas tournament, likely with Team USA as its toughest competition.
There are just four returnees from Canada’s 2017 World Cup team, which won a gold medal with Barrett, the continent’s top-rated high school player, leading the way.
Barrett is preparing for his freshman season at Duke University, and absent from the 2018 Americas tourney. The only returning players are Emanuel Miller, Joel Brown, Tyrese Samuel and Jaden Bediako.
A healthy Nembhard would likely have been part of the 2017 World Cup team, and he admitted he would have loved to play on it.
But now he’s here, gunning for a championship, ready to lead.
“Over the last couple of years I’m really trying to improve my leadership skills, both vocally and by example,” he said.
“I’m more of a quiet guy, but I think over the years I’ve kind of come out of my shell a little more.
“I feel like I’m being much more vocal now. I’m really comfortable with this group of guys. I feel like I can be myself.”
Michael Meeks, Canada Basketball’s manager of men’s youth player development and an assistant coach with the U18 team, has said the team has a target on its back, and Nembhard acknowledged that’s likely the case with Team USA.
“I feel like it’s good pressure, though,” he said. “I feel like we’re all motivated to win another one.
“We just want to work harder and harder and try to be the best in the world.”
This fall, Nembhard will suit up for the Florida Gators, a team looking to replace senior point guard Chris Chiozza, the school’s all-time assists leader.
There are no guarantees Nembhard, the No. 26 recruit in America according to ESPN, is Chiozza’s immediate successor.
For now he’s here, ready to make his mark.
“My goal is to try to win a starting spot on the team, play as much as possible, and just help my team in any way I can to win,” he said.
“That’s defensively, offensively, being a leader, coming off the bench—whatever I need to do to kind of help us win as [many] games as possible, hopefully win the national championship.
“That’s what I want to do.”
Duke is an early favourite to win the NCAA title, with an immensely talented roster that includes Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish—the top three recruits in the class of 2019.
Still, Nembhard likes his chances.
“I think Florida definitely has a chance of beating Duke,” he said. “Every team in college basketball is beatable.”
Next season will be the first time in many years Nembhard does not play with Barrett, a close friend and potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick.
He welcomes the challenge.
“I think we both play really well together, but I think we both have more to show that—when we’re away from each other,” he said.
“I feel like this is just a good opportunity for me to show more of my game, the scoring side of my game, especially—just to bring out more leadership in my game.
“I think it’ll be a good opportunity.”
What matters for now is that he’s here, competing for an international title on home soil.
Here, doing what he was born to do. Here, pursuing greatness.
Here, and stronger than ever.
“I feel like I just attack everything in a more motivated way,” he said.
“I feel like I just cherish and thank people for what they do so much more … just cherish everything.”
Triano steps aside as Canadian national team coach
Jay Triano has officially stepped down as the head coach of Canada’s senior men’s national team.
Canada Basketball made the announcement this morning, confirming media reports that circulated on Sunday.
“I can’t thank Jay enough for all he has done for basketball in Canada,” said Glen Grunwald, president and CEO of Canada Basketball, in a statement.
“As both a coach and player, Jay is a Canadian icon and has played a major role in the development of basketball within our country and we will forever be grateful for his contributions.
“After speaking with Jay, I’m hopeful we can find a role where he can continue to contribute to Canada Basketball in the future.”
Triano is the first Canadian-born and Canadian-trained coach to work in the NBA, starting as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors in 2002 and later promoted to head coach.
He is currently the lead assistant coach with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.
As head coach of Canada’s national team from 1998 to 2004, Triano led the team to a seventh-place finish at the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
Canada has not returned to the Olympics since then, but it figures to be a contender to play at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Triano returned as head coach in 2012, guiding the club to a pair of victories during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers.
As a player, Triano served with Canada’s national team from 1977 to 1988 and was team captain for the final seven years of his tenure.
He was elected to the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Ryerson University head coach Roy Rana is among three other candidates being granted interviews to replace Triano, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange.
The other candidates are Gord Herbert, who played for Canada at the 1984 Olympics; and Ettore Messina, an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.
A final decision is expected by March 31.
Multiple reports say Triano cited “personal reasons” for taking his name out of the running, but he did not elaborate.
Team Canada’s next major test will be the 2019 FIBA World Cup, starting Aug. 31 in China.
Triano steps aside at a high point in Canadian basketball, with dozens of players in the NBA and at elite NCAA schools, including Barrett’s son R.J. Barrett, a Duke University standout who is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Canada draws Group of Death 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup
Canada’s path to a 2019 FIBA basketball World Cup medal and hopes of a 2020 Olympic berth took a serious blow prior to the start of the games as No. 23 Team Canada was drawn into the group of death — alongside global powerhouses No. 6 Lithuania, No. 11 Australia, and No. 37 Senegal.
For Canada to have a shot at getting to the podium they will have to finish in the top two spots of Group H to advance to second round of the tournament — where the top 16 teams will be split into four new groups (Groups I, J, K, L). If it reaches that stage Team Canada will once again have to finish in the top two to advance to the quarter-finals.
Canada’s road to the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics is a complex and tough process — given FIBA’s decision to make the World Cup apart of the qualification process. Seven spots are currently up for grabs at FIBA’s flagship event and with hosts Japan earning an automatic entry the room for error is minuscule.
To reach the Olympics, Canada will have to finish as one of the top two teams from the seven team America’s region that features the world’s number one squad in the United States of America alongside traditional mainstays Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezula and Puerto Rico.
If Canada is unable to secure a spot as one of the two top America’s region teams, they will hope to be amongst the top 16 teams at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup where they will be granted automatic qualification to a last chance tournament taking place next summer at a yet to be determined locations. If unable to finish in the top 16, Canada’s last hope would be one of the last eight countries that FIBA would invite for one of the last-chance qualifier tournaments.
Therefore, if Canada has any hopes of qualifying for the 12-team 2020 Summer Olympics via the World Cup they will need to advance from Group H one as top two teams, failure to advance in the premilinary round will automatically put Canada’s hopes at the mercy FIBA via the invitation tournament only.
Should Canada reach the second-round they will be placed in the newly formed Group L, alongside Group G winner and runner-up — potentially setting up another group of death with No. 3 France, No. 11 Germany, No. 11 Australia or No. 6 Lithuania.
To make matters worse for the Canadians, they have been pooled on the same half of the draw as the United States — which would mean a potential quarter-finals match-up between the two neighbouring nations, if Canada can somehow get there.
If the Canadians can reach the quarter-finals there is a good chance they alongside the USA would be last two standing Americas teams — thus earning automatic berth to Tokyo 2020.
As evident, by the World Cup draw and given FIBA’s recent changes it’s clearly going to be a tough road for the Canadians to fullfill their 2020 vision of becoming a global basketball powerhouse.
Canada opens up the World Cup against Australia on Saturday August 31st and will take on Lithuania on two days rest on Monday September 2nd beforing concluding Group H action against Senegal on Wednesday September 4th, 2019. All of Canada’s preliminary round games will be played in Dongguan, China
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