April 22nd, 2024

Canada’s Andrew Nembhard sees improvement in sophomore season with Indiana Pacers

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on February 19, 2024.

Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard (2) drives between Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25), guard Malachi Flynn (22) and centre Jakob Poeltl (19) during second half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. As great as the past year has been for Canadian basketball, Nembhard expects things are going to get even better. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO – As great as the past year has been for Canadian basketball, Andrew Nembhard expects things are going to get even better.

Nembhard, from Aurora, Ont., is enjoying his sophomore NBA season as the starting shooting guard on the Indiana Pacers. Like fellow Canadian NBAers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, and Jamal Murray, the 24-year-old is playing some of the best basketball of his professional career alongside all-star point guard Tyrese Haliburton.

“I think a lot of us are young, so I think we’re only going to keep getting better and better,” said Nembhard of the NBA’s current Canadian contingent. “Every year coming up is going to be our best year until the next year.”

Nembhard is averaging nine points, 4.6 assists, 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 steals over 42 games this season. Those numbers are comparable to last year’s campaign – he’s slightly down in points and rebounds but up in assists – but he’s becoming more efficient in his second year in the league.

His assist to turnover ratio has remained static at 2.7, but his effective field goal percentage, a stat that measures field goal percentage adjusted with three-pointers being 1.5 times more valuable than two-point field goals, has gone from 51.2 per cent to 54.2 per cent, season to season.

“He’s continued to get better,” said Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle. “This year he’s dealt with a lot of small health issues here and there. Right now he’s feeling good.

“He’s playing at the level that we expected him to play at. He’s still got a lot, a lot more upside, so it’s exciting.”

Nembhard’s numbers were buoyed by a four-game stretch from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 where he had to step up for Haliburton, who was out with a left hamstring strain. The Canadian averaged 18 points and eight assists during that time to lead Indiana to a 3-1 record.

He earned Basketball Canada’s male player of the week for his efforts and was nominated for the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

“I didn’t realize I got that,” said Nembhard with a smile. “It was a good week for me. I felt very comfortable after I had two bad games and I felt like it just kind of calmed down that week and it felt really good.”

Nembhard declined to play for Canada at last fall’s FIBA men’s World Cup, opting to rest after the physical demands of his rookie season. He said he wanted to focus on having a good 2023-24 campaign but hopes to join fellow NBAers Kelly Olnyk, Barrett, Luguentz Dort, Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Dillon Brooks and Dwight Powell at the Paris Olympics this summer.

“I think I can help the team and I think it would be a fun opportunity,” said Nembhard. “Obviously, everybody wants to play in the Olympics so it would be exciting if I can get on that team.

He said he was inspired when Canada’s women’s team locked up a spot the Paris Games after Spain beat Hungary 73-72 on Feb. 11 at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

“I think the women are setting the tone for us,” said Nembhard. “I mean, they’ve been in there more than us, for sure, so we’re trying to catch up.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2024.

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