"This is my time," Nembhard said. "It's time to let the young guys take over the program. In this draft I feel like I'm among the top. There are not many point guards in this class that can impact the game in a winning sense in the way I can. I've gotten feedback and did the things the NBA told me I needed to do to take the next step. I'm ready."
Nembhard, the No. 50 prospect in the ESPN 100, was named first-team All-WCC after averaging 11.8 points, 5.8 assists and 1.6 assists for the Zags, who were the NCAA tournament's No. 1 overall seed. Nembhard posted career highs in every category this year, including shooting 38% for 3s and 87% from the free throw line.
"Going into my senior year I did a lot of offseason work, getting my body right, improving my quickness and speed. Early in my career I was looked at as a guy that couldn't play fast; I think I showed a different side of me this season. When the opportunity presented itself, I showed I could make plays and carry my team offensively, including as a scorer. I'm super excited to show teams more. How lethal I can be in pick-and-roll situations. Also in isolation situations I'm growing. My game is getting a lot better."
Nembhard was the engine behind one of the fastest-paced and most efficient offenses in college basketball, tasked with providing a steady hand alongside All-American frontcourt players Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. When needed, he also showed he can be a primary scorer, posting 24 points in a nonconference win over UCLA and spearheading a come-from-behind NCAA tournament victory over Memphis in the round of 32, scoring 23 points and making several clutch baskets down the stretch.
"I'm a winning guy, a true point guard, so my natural inclination is to get everyone involved. I'd always look at the matchups, Drew usually had mismatches, and we needed to get Chet the ball so he would feel good and step up when we need him. I showed that throughout the season, when guys are getting bogged down, I can be more assertive offensively, shoot from deep, get into the lane and score, and make plays off the bounce. The balance we had between passing and scoring was really good.
At 6-foot-5, 193 pounds, Nembhard has excellent size for a point guard and became an increasingly prolific and consistent perimeter shooter as his career moved on, getting closer to what many NBA teams look for in a backup when paired with the instincts and smarts he brings defensively. In Gonzaga's final six games of the season, he played 237 of a potential 240 minutes, being virtually indispensable for what many considered to be the best team in college basketball.
"I needed to do a lot of ballhandling for our team and carry a big load on offense, which is why sometimes you'd see me only guarding the other team's third-best player. I've always been a good defender, and it's something I've always taken pride in. I guarded power forwards at Florida, and also point guards. That's what will get me on the floor early on. I'm sneakily stronger than a lot of people think. I'm 195 pounds now, almost 200. Where I'll be very useful is guarding 1-3 and even some small-ball 4s."
A five-star recruit in high school, Nembhard started his career at Florida but elected to transfer after his sophomore year. He played a significant role on the team that lost in the national championship to Baylor in 2021, rarely coming off the floor in Gonzaga's big games once again.
"When I took that year to transfer, my biggest thing was I wanted to win games. I did it in high school and at the FIBA level. I wanted to be in that winning culture, that's where I excel."
Born in Toronto, Nembhard has represented Canada at the national team level in every age group, starting at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, continuing at the FIBA U17 World Cup and the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, and even seeing rotation minutes at the senior level in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, a team that was coached by Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors.
Having entered the NBA draft in 2019 and 2020, he cannot withdraw his name from consideration after declaring for a third time, according to league rules, making him ineligible to return to college basketball despite the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted all players in October 2020.
"Initially I can bring backup point guard minutes to a team. A player like Tyus Jones -- I can emulate his role, bring a high assist-to-turnover ratio, get guys open shots, hit open 3s and understand the game. I can see myself in a similar role. I can give a team a different look off the bench, pushing the pace in transition, getting guys open shots. With the way the NBA spacing is, that's only going to help me. Every kid wants to go first round -- that would be a blessing -- but a win for me on draft night would be going to a team that I can make an impact on. A team that I can fit into and win games."
The NBA draft combine will be May 16-22 in Chicago, and the draft will be June 23 at the Barclays Center in New York City.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.