With the excitement of a nation behind him and the fury of a revengeful rival in his future– Andrew Nembhard is Canada’s latest great hope.
Almost eleven months ago, Team Canada gained a historic win over the United States in the semifinals of the FIBA U-19 World Cup in Egypt. At the forefront was a 17-year old R.J. Barrett who scored 38 points and hauled in 13 rebounds in the victory for Canada.
One day later, Barrett stole the show in the championship game against Italy by recording 18 points and 12 rebounds to give Team Canada its first ever basketball gold medal. Barrett was tabbed as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
In Canada’s latest international campaign at the FIBA U-18 Americas Championship, the team will be without the services of Barrett. The future Duke Blue Devil is spending the summer in Los Angeles improving his game with renowned basketball trainer Drew Hanlen.
Which means now is the time for Andrew Nembhard to leave his legacy.
Although Nembhard didn’t play in the 2017 World Cup, he is certainly no stranger when it comes to competing in big moments. The 6-foot-4 point guard was at the center of Montverde Academy’s record-breaking fourth national championship at the 2018 GEICO Nationals.
Playing point guard at Montverde is no small task, especially when considering the talent that head coach Kevin Boyle routinely draws to Central Florida. This past year’s team featured numerous players that will play high-major college basketball including R.J. Barrett (Duke), Michael Devoe (Georgia Tech), Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga) and Karrington Davis (Nebraska).
Nembhard tackled the challenge of running the Montverde offense as a pass-first distributor with tremendous success.
Perhaps no game better surmised Nembhard’s value than the championship against NSU University School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). While Barrett gained the headlines with a dominant 25 points and 15 rebounds, Nembhard quietly dished out 13 assists with eight points and three steals.
It was this type of all-around production and unselfish leadership that propelled Nembhard to a national ranking of No. 26 by 247 Sports and an eventual college commitment to the University of Florida.
Canada will need every bit of production it can get from Nembhard if the team hopes to defeat Team USA. Coached by Bill Self and led by Kansas commit Quentin Grimes, the U.S. is loaded with depth and ready to avenge last year’s World Cup loss.
The talent for Team Canada includes high-profile prospects like Emanuel Miller (scholarship offers from Oklahoma, SMU, Pittsburgh), Tyrese Samuel (UConn, K-State, South Carolina, TCU, VA Tech, Wake Forest, Wichita St.), A.J. Lawson (South Carolina, Creighton, Oregon, SMU), Addison Patterson (Arizona St., Florida, Oregon, Syracuse, USC), Jaden Bediako (Oklahoma, VA Tech, USC), Joel Brown (Rutgers, New Mexico) and Jevonnie Scott (Arizona St., USC).
The pervading question remains though: Will it be enough to take down the United States?
Even without the services of Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky commit), who suffered an ankle injury on Tuesday, the United States remains the best team on paper. In addition to Grimes, the U.S. backcourt is highlighted by perhaps the most explosive point guard in the country in Cole Anthony.
Meanwhile in the frontcourt, stretch forward Matthew Hurt has consistently proven to be a difficult matchup for opponents. Standing at a lengthy 6-foot-9 with a deadly accuracy from deep, Hurt allows Team USA to spread the floor and provide opportunities for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the lane.
Not to mention, Team USA can receive instant offense from one of the streakiest shooters in the country in Coby White (UNC signee) and an elite defensive presence from Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois signee) coming off the bench.
If that’s not enough, the U.S. can roll-out even more elite prospects with Josiah James, Mark Watts, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Armando Bacot and Kamaka Hepa (Texas signee).
Even still, if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that rankings mean nothing in the heat of competition. Last year’s American club was the most talented team in Egypt, but yet R.J. Barrett and Canada came out on top.
Could this also be the blueprint for Canada at the FIBA Americas? Can Andrew Nembhard be the most talented player on the court in a battle against the United States?
The future Florida Gator displayed that potential in Canada’s opening game of the FIBA Americas. Nembhard poured in a commanding 28 points with seven rebounds and six assists in a decisive 92-75 victory over a resilient Argentina club.
From the opening tip, Nembhard dominated the game by possessing the ball, driving hard to the basket and finishing at the rim within the first six seconds of the match.
Later in the game, Nembhard heated up from beyond the arc while also displaying a smoothness when breaking down defenders and pulling-up from mid-range. It was a masterful performance– one that Canada will need to duplicate if the team hopes to win gold.
More Things You Should Know:
1. How did the United States and Canada get to this point?
Both teams raced through the group stage. Canada defeated Argentina, Chile and Ecuador by an average of 31 points. The United States stormed past the Dominican Republic, Panama and Puerto Rico by an average of 56 points.
The two teams will start the knockout rounds Thursday.
2. Thursday’s Schedule
Argentina vs. Dominican Republic
12:00 p.m. EST
Chile vs. Puerto Rico
2:15 p.m. EST
Ecuador vs. USA
6:00 p.m. EST
Canada vs. Panama
8:15 p.m. EST
All games can be streamed live for free at YouTube.com/FIBA
3. Final Disclosure
Admittedly, it’s always dangerous to make assumptions on what teams will make it to the championship game; however needless to say, it would come as a major surprise if either the United States or Canada fell in the quarterfinals or semifinals.
The U.S. and Canada would meet in the gold medal game on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. EST provided the two teams remain unbeaten.