SHANGHAI, China — Andrew Nembhard isn’t new to playing before crowds and playing in big games.
He did after all hit the LSU buzzer-beating three in the SEC tournament that sent his Florida Gators into the NCAA tournament.
But just 19, this whole FIBA World Cup experience is new to him.
Playing behind Cory Joseph and Kevin Pangos, his minutes have been sparse in the actual tournament.
With just Monday’s game against Germany remaining, Nembhard’s only played a total of 32 minutes in the first four games, but the experience has been invaluable
“Yeah, good experience for me being a young guy and getting to learn from older guys on the team,” Nembhard said following practice Sunday. “Just get better for my season at Florida.”
Nembhard is coming off a freshman season with the Florida Gators where he played in every game. The Gators are going to be young this season which means Nembhard will be relied upon for some veteran presence, and an experience like this one should help in that regard.
It hasn’t been so much in-game experience he has gathered, rather more of a watch-and-learn variety, but experience nonetheless.
When veteran Joseph returned to the team in time for the start of the tournament in China, Nembhard’s minutes dried up drastically. His personal highlight from the almost six weeks with Canada was a win over Australia in Australia in one of the tune-up games.
Nembhard had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the game, but best of all got to match his skills with NBA-proven vets like Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, and Patty Mills.
“Yes, it was a good game for me,” Nembhard said. “Definitely a good opportunity to play against NBA talent on their team and just get better every game. I felt really good out there.”
Nembhard pauses noticeably when asked if it was a confidence boost.
“It was pretty high before that but it can only help to make me more comfortable when I’m playing,” he eventually said.
Nick Nurse has liked what he has seen of Nembhard in the moments he has used him.
“He’s obviously shown us a lot of talent, right?,” Nurse said in his patented, answer-a-question-with-a-question way. “He’s got a big athletic body, he’s kind of got this herky-jerky offensive game which is hard to guard, he can shake his guy and get into the paint, he’s a creator — which in this game is really important — because he can get in there and fire it out to people for shots, and it fits kind of the way we want to play.”
There aren’t many programs that would use a spot on a 12-man roster for such a young guy. Australia left Josh Green off its roster this year and did the same with Ben Simmons when he first arrived on the senior men’s scene.
But Canada, as GM Rowan Barrett pointed out earlier this week, has done this before bringing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the roster when he was still in his teens.
The other side of that coin is Canada hasn’t had a ton of options at times either.
“It’s good to get him some experience, it really was, because I think he’s certainly a guy who could be a future for this team,” Nurse said.
Nembhard will head back home in a few days with his Canadian teammates and then it’ will be only a week or two before he is back in Florida for training with the Gators.
“Yeah, we start official practice a week or two after I get back,” Nembhard said. “So it’s pretty quick. Our first game is in about two months. So we’re just preparing.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys so (I) really got to instill our culture in them right now,” he said already sounding like a veteran.
Nembhard has been groomed for this kind of life from an early age. He picked up both soccer and basketball as a three-year-old before choosing to focus on shooting hoops in Grade 8 or 9.
But he was member of TFC’s esteemed Academy program so he obviously had talent in that sport as well.