The elite big man has become one of Gonzaga’s many calling cards. Since 2013, the Zags have seen Kelly Olynyk, Domantas Sabonis, Zach Collins and Rui Hachimura all plucked in the lottery, with another front court star (Brandon Clarke) waiting until the 21st pick of this past draft, only to follow with an explosive rookie campaign.
And with reigning WCC Player of the Year Filip Petrusev potentially back for another year and a boatful of talent low post talent behind him, the dominant big man has staying power in Spokane. But Mark Few has continued to show that he can lock down the point guard position too, no matter what route that takes. On Tuesday, Florida transfer Andrew Nembhard officially committed to the Zags, presumably adding the future piece to the assembly line of point guards.
Nembhard — who averaged 11.2 points and 5.6 assists per game as a sophomore last year — will presumably inherit the position from five star freshman and likely-NBA-bound talent Jalen Suggs following a redshirt year. The news would seem to add further stability to a position that has been as reliable as any for Few over his remarkable tenure.
The Zags’ offense has always sparkled under Few. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, and the numbers back it up. The Bulldogs have posted a top 10 national offense in terms of KenPom adjusted efficiency nine times since 2000, including the top unit in the country the past two seasons. In total, they’ve never fallen lower than 45th, and that lead guard lineage stretches back to program legends like Dan Dickau and Blake Stepp, who underpinned Few’s early years in Spokane.
It then transitioned to stars like Derek Raivio, Jeremy Pargo, David Stockton and Kevin Pangos in a succession that yielded countless WCC and national accolades. In more recent times, the mid-career, high major transfer — like Nembhard — is a route the program has gone before, as Slipper Still Fits mentioned in their breakdown of the recent commitment.
Nembhard can also look to the success that Nigel Williams-Goss had at Gonzaga after transferring midway through his collegiate career as a positive template for what may be in store for him.
Indeed, Williams-Goss was tremendous in his lone season on the court for the Zags after transferring from Washington (16.8 PPG, 4.7 APG, 6.0 RPG), and was the engineer of the team that nearly beat North Carolina in the title game. The reins then got handed to back Josh Perkins after that groundbreaking season, who had gotten the bulk of the minutes at the position his freshman before moving off the ball when Williams-Goss became eligible.
Perkins flourished into one of the most accomplished players in the Zags’ illustrious history, registering more career assists than any other Bulldog and guiding teams that won a combined 65 games over his junior and senior seasons. As an ESPN top-25 recruit in the Class of 2014, he fits the mold of Suggs, the Zags’ presumptive 2020-21 point guard that made headlines as arguably the Bulldogs’ best-ever recruit.
The Minnesota native talked about what swayed him toward Spokane back in January.
“To me, Mark Few is the best coach in the country,” Suggs said. “He has that winning mentality just like I do. He’s a great competitor and what he does with his players and his point guards, I believe going into that system I can truly grow and develop as a player.”
That’s been a safe bet, as has Few continually restocked the point guard position. It’s been through grad transfers that played big roles (Ryan Wooldrige) or smaller roles (Geno Crandall), elite prep prospects (Perkins) and undervalued prep prospects (Raivio), international recruits (Pangos) and high major transfers (Williams-Goss).
Following Suggs’ highly-anticipated season, Nembhard looks to be the next in line.