Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few doesn’t typically hype his team or his guys up, preferring to subdue expectations and speak in platitudes when forced to address the media.
But at WCC media day on Friday, Few didn’t mince words about his new point guard, Ryan Nembhard, calling him the best point guard in the game.
“He’s phenomenal,” Few told reporters, including Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review. “He’s easy. He’s a great player, first of all, and a great point guard. I think he’s the best point guard in all of college basketball.”
Addressing the point guard position was paramount for Few and the Zags this offseason, with last year’s struggles often related to the team’s lack of a playmaking point guard – a role Nolan Hickman wasn’t able to fill as capably as hoped. Hickman will now play off the ball where his secondary creation and outside shooting should make him more valuable in year three.
Gonzaga was attached to a litany of guard transfers this offseason, including Steven Ashworth (Utah State) Taran Armstrong (Cal Baptist) and Caleb Love (North Carolina) but the top target all along was Nembhard, whose older brother Andrew transferred to Gonzaga after two years at Florida. Andrew of course helped lead Gonzaga to a national championship and was an All-Rookie caliber player in the NBA last year with the Indiana Pacers.
Andrew’s success in Spokane likely played a big role in Ryan’s decision to follow suit, despite being heavily pursued by Tommy Lloyd and Arizona. The Wildcats ended up landing Love, while Ashworth replaced Nembhard at Creighton and Armstrong decided to play professionally in Australia.
Nembhard averaged 11.8 points and 4.6 assists in his two seasons at Creighton, earning Big East Rookie of the Year as a freshman and leading the Blue Jays to the Elite 8 last year, thanks to a 30 point outburst against 3 seed Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga’s rich history of elite guard play goes all the way back to John Stockton in the 1980’s, and a nearly 20 year run of top tier performers, from Dan Dickau to Jalen Suggs, will continue in 2023-24 with Nembhard at the helm.
Andy hosts the Locked on Zags and Locked on College Basketball podcasts, and serves Locked On in a marketing/digital content creator role as well. He lives just outside Portland with his wife Jenna and dog, Tillie.