Florida freshman eyes starting guard position

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Florida freshman guard Andrew Nembhard is considered the best passer in the 2018 recruiting class. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Andrew Nembhard had his back against a wall and occasionally his eyes would dart across the floor of the gym at the UF practice facility.

Still, on Florida’s basketball media day, he seemed as relaxed as a kitten with a bellyful of food.

That’s the persona of the biggest signee of the Mike White era at UF, relaxed, respectful and ready to step into the role of replacing the best point guard in the school’s history.

But the eyes.

Always seeing everything.

“I think I got (his father’s) vision,” Nembhard said of his dad, Claude. “He was a point guard, too.”

That vision sees a lot and it will likely be in charge of a ranked team when Florida’s season starts in six weeks. After a decorated high school career at Montverde Academy and a sensational post-high school career playing for his native Canada, Nembhard acts as confident as you would hope to see the point guard following Chris Chiozza.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “They are definitely some big shoes to fill. I’m just going to try to come and help the team win.

“Last year I watched a lot of him. I’m just going to try to come in and pick up where he left off.”

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As Florida started its first official practice Tuesday, White wasn’t naming Nembhard the starter at the point, where he will battle with sophomore Mike Okauru.

But then he started to talk about the freshman and could barely contain himself.

And that’s before the team ever had a full practice.

“He’s a high level passer,” White said. “He is a really high level IQ guy.

He’s going to be a really good player.

“He’ll have a chance to be in the conversation to be one of the better passers in college basketball. That is his gift. He sees the game at a higher level. He’s not only an elite passer, he’s an elite passer with size.”

Listed at 6-foot-5, Nembhard isn’t afraid to score either. For example, there was his 28-point performance in the FIBA Under-18 Americas tournament semifinals.

“I’m going to try to keep being aggressive,” he said. “Coaches have told me it’ll open up the passing lanes.”

And then, well, you’ll see.

“When the pass is not there,” said senior KeVaughn Allen, “he makes it there.”

In other words, buckle up.

But don’t forget that this is a freshman who will play his first college game in the less-than-friendly confines at Florida State to start the season. What will follow is a difficult non-conference schedule and what may be the best conference in basketball this season.

“There are a lot of challenges,” White said. “Trying to simplify the game as much as possible, simplify his role, help him become as comfortable as possible as soon as possible.

“He’s going to have to play through some mistakes. At the same time, ride him. It’s not like he’s a huge work in progress.”

It doesn’t hurt that Nembhard will be working with a team that may well have three senior starters (Allen, Jalen Hudson and Kevarrius Hayes) and a fourth-year junior (Keith Stone) also starting.

Or that Florida should have — health willing — it’s deepest team since White took over for Billy Donovan.

“For me, to be more vocal is the challenge,” Nembhard said. “Kind of be a general on the court.”

A five-star general.


Up next

Who: Florida vs. Florida State in the Fresh from Florida Sunshine Showdown

When: 9 p.m. Nov. 6

Where: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, Tallahassee

TV: ESPN2

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM

Note: The date marks the earliest season opener in UF men’s basketball program history.

6 COMMENTS

  1. He could be a Jason Kidd type of player if can improve his quickness and become stronger physically as the year progresses. If he can average 10-12 pts, 7ast, 5 rebs, 2 or less turnover per game, shoots 45% from the field and 35% 3pt percentage. I do not expect too much pressure to be on him to score since we have so many capable scorers on this time.

    And most importantly plays lock down defense and UF become a top 10 team all year. He will be a one and done. I think these stats are realistic for a player of his caliber.

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