The NBA scouts came to see seven-foot-tall freshman wonder kid Chet Holmgren, but instead they were treated to an impressive all-around performance by Canadian point-guard Andrew Nembhard.
Nembhard (Aurora, Ontario) scored a season-high 24 points, dished out six (6) assists, grabbed five (5) rebounds and added three (3) steals to lead the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs past the No. 2 UCLA Bruins at the 2021 Empire Classic tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The senior guard was instrumental in the victory over the Bruins, scoring 13 of his game-high 24 points in the first twelve minutes of the highly anticipated contest. Nembhard was assertive from the get go, controlling the pace and tempo of the game, scoring in transition and beautifully orchestrating Gonzaga’s half-court offense.
Nembhard knocked down 9-of-13 field-goal attempts, including a perfect 7-of-7 from two-point baskets, 2-of-6 from three-pointers and a perfect 4-of-4 from the foul-line in 40 minutes of action.
UCLA head coach Mick Cronin didn’t need any complex boxscore stats to know that Nembhard took it to his team on a national televised game. “Before I even looked at the stats, I don’t even need to see the stats. He was clearly the best player on the floor tonight, hands down. I don’t think anybody’s going to disagree with that, not if you were at the game.” a visibly frustrated Cronin discussed during post-game.
The six-foot-five senior came-up one-point shy of tying a career-high of 25 points, which he set on two occasions (Alabama and Georgia) during his sophomore year with the Florida Gators.
Mostly known as a pass first point-guard, Nembhard’s nine (9) made field-goals were the second most in his career and the thirteen (13) attempts also ranked in the top ten in over his 100-plus played NCAA games.
Nembhard is currently part of a 150-plus Canadian basketball players playing NCAA men’s college basketball this season. Ryan Nembhard, the younger brother of Andrew, a freshman at Creighton University is also off to hot start leading the Blue Jays to 5-1 record.
Both NCAA basketball programs have a solid history of recruiting the Canadian basketball landscape. Gonzaga first inking Pierre-Marie Altidor-Cespedes (St-Lambert, Que.) way back in 2006, kicking-off a rich tradition of maple leaf basketball in Spokane which has led to four current Canadian NBA players. Creighton first recruited Jahens Manigat (Ottawa, Ont.) in 2010.
The nationally broadcasted affair also featured the return of the Dick Vitale sitting courtside, doing what he loves the most. The voice of college basketball since 1979, was diagnosed with lymphoma on October 12th, 2021 and was extremely emotional prior to tip-off.
The Bulldogs (6-0) will take on the Duke Blue Devils in their last major non-conference game. Gonzaga has racked-up convincing wins over the Texas Longhorns, UCLA and will now look to add Duke to their list of quality victories in what surely will go a long way in locking-up a potential number one seed come March Madness.