Andrew Nembhard has turned out to be the best college basketball transfer in recent memory.
Back in May 2020, Andrew Nembhard announced that he would be leaving the University of Florida after two seasons playing under head coach Mike White.
The Aurora, ON native was a big-time recruit coming out of high school at Montverde Academy in Florida leading them to a national championship.
His first season at Florida was a resounding success with Nembhard being named to the SEC All-Freshman Team following a season where he averaged eight points per game along with 5.4 assists. His freshman campaign was so successful that he thought about testing the NBA draft waters but instead decided to return to Gainesville for his sophomore season.
In spite of starting all 67 games in his first two seasons at Florida, something just seemed off during that sophomore campaign in 2019-20. The Gators went 19-12 but the SEC tournament was cancelled in March of 2020 with the world in turmoil. Nembhard actually increased his scoring tally up to 11.2 points per game and his assist totals (5.6 APG) but the Gators had clearly taken a step back during that season and something needed to change.
On April 26, 2020 Nembhard declared for the NBA draft and his college days appeared to be over. Aside from playing at Florida, Nembhard had also become a fixture with the Canadian Men’s National team and seemed to fit in well playing alongside other NBA players. He looked to be ready for the league.
Surprisingly on June 1, 2020 Nembhard changed his tune about the NBA and put his name in the transfer portal with the likes of Duke, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Memphis and Gonzaga emerging as the early favourites.
Duke seemed like a no-brainer landing spot where Nembhard could have taken over the reins from his friend and fellow Canadian RJ Barrett and played on national TV every week gliding into the NBA the following season after a year under Coach K.
Oregon also seemed to make sense with them becoming Team Canada South over the past decade with a number of Canadians suiting up for the Ducks including Dillon Brooks, Dylan Ennis, Chris Boucher and many more.
Then in late June 2020, Nembhard surprised many by announcing his commitment to play for Mark Few at Gonzaga. The Zags of course have become a mainstay in the NCAA tournament over the past 20 years but many of their regular season games in the West Coast Conference often air at 11pm ET on ESPNU and not Saturday afternoon at 3pm ET on CBS like Duke.
The basketball fit of Gonzaga made sense at the time but perhaps not the branding fit for a star in the making like Nembhard.
The initial plan for Nembhard was to sit out the 2020-21 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Gonzaga was seemingly set at point guard with incoming freshman phenom Jalen Suggs as well as transfer Aaron Cook who had a stellar four-year career at Southern Illinois able to provide stability behind the youngster Suggs.
Due to government restrictions changing the political landscape, the world changed rapidly and many players were looking to move schools for various different reasons that weren’t basketball related. The NCAA in turn began handing out transfer eligibility waivers like candy on Halloween and Nembhard ended up becoming eligible at Gonzaga for the 2020-21 season.
Nembhard was a key figure for the Zags during their undefeated run through the regular season and NCAA tournament going 31-0 before eventually losing in the national championship game to Baylor 86-70 to fall to 31-1 on the year.
Nembhard was named WCC Sixth Man of the Year as well as second team All-WCC after averaging 9.2 points per game along with 4.4 assists. He was a maestro on the court and often seemed in perfect unison with Drew Timme and his Gonzaga teammates helping to create some of the most alluring basketball in the history of the NCAA.
With Suggs exiting Gonzaga for the NBA (being selected No.5 overall by Orlando in 2021), the keys to Gonzaga were handed solely to Nembhard.
With Nembhard in charge, Gonzaga has been the most dominant team in college basketball during the 2021-22 season going 24-3 and maintaining the No.1 ranking in the AP Top 25 for a good chunk of the year. He was also named first team All-WCC.
Gonzaga is expected to be a No.1 seed upcoming in March Madness and a clear favourite to earn their first ever national championship title.
With almost 2000 players available each year in the transfer portal, every coach and player envision their move to a new school being the stepping stone to bigger and better things but more often than not, things don’t always work out that way. There is often a reason that player didn’t work out at his previous school and that usually comes to light at some point, exposing his flaws.
With Nembhard’s exceptional performance for Mark Few at Gonzaga it should force Florida fans to take a good hard look at their head coach Mike White and wonder aloud, “How did he let this kid go?”
If Nembhard can bring Gonzaga a national championship, he will no doubt become the greatest transfer in the history of college basketball.