Former Creighton point guard Ryan Nembhard, ESPN’s No. 2 player in the NCAA transfer portal, has committed to play at Gonzaga next season, he told ESPN on Friday.
Nembhard is considered one of the top point guards returning to college basketball and will immediately be a contender for WCC player of the year honors, providing the Zags a huge boost as they transition out of the Drew Timme era.
The 2021 Big East freshman of the year, Nembhard averaged 12.1 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game, shooting 36% for 3 this season. He has started every game in his two-year college career, making back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances and losing to national championship finalists San Diego State 57-56 this season in the Elite Eight on a controversial foul call.
Nembhard said he couldn’t point to any single factor that led him to transfer, a move that surprised some considering the amount of success his team enjoyed the past two years.
“It wasn’t any one thing,” Nembhard said. “My teammates are great people and we clearly were well-coached. We reached a level no other Creighton team achieved. I’m very happy for that and grateful for how the season evolved. That’s really all I want to say about that.”
Nembhard picked Gonzaga over Arizona, Alabama and UCF.
Nembhard’s brother, Andrew Nembhard, a decorated point guard himself, also transferred to Gonzaga (from Florida) after his sophomore season, helping propel the Zags to become the No. 1 offense in college basketball and eventually emerge as the No. 31 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
“Of course my brother had been telling me for years what a great coach Mark [Few] was,” Ryan Nembhard said. “And it’s obvious Andrew was well prepared for the NBA by Coach Few and all the staff at Gonzaga the two years he was there; he started more games this year as a rookie than any other Pacers rookie has started in over 20 years.
“Winning, development, and overall happiness are all things I’m hunting. Andrew can’t help me find them. I have to do that on my own. Gonzaga is the place for me, I can just tell.”
Andrew Nembhard was recruited to Gonzaga by Tommy Lloyd, now the head coach at Arizona and who was also heavily involved in Ryan Nembhard’s recruitment once he entered the portal two weeks ago.
Ryan Nembhard said his brother’s experience clearly held weight in his decision.
“The head coaches at Arizona and Gonzaga are like family to the Nembhards,” Ryan Nembhard said. “They both did so much for my brother, and because of our tight relationship, I feel as strongly about them as he does. I knew before my visits to Spokane and Tucson there was no wrong answer. Both places are amazing, full of great coaches and players.”
“I also considered UCF and Alabama for various reasons as well and I could see myself ending up at one of those schools too. Once I got home after my visits, I just thought about it and I decided to go this route. It’s not complicated.”
Nembhard says his goals at Gonzaga are to “get better every day and win a lot of games.”
“I’m going to challenge myself to be an elite defender. I’m inspired by players like Jose Alvarado and Chris Paul. I can’t wait to show that side of my game. Then I want to help quarterback our talented squad to an amazing season. Shoot well, manage the game, high assists and low turnovers. I know what Andrew did at Gonzaga to help his team win nearly every game he played as a Zag. And I see how that translates to the NBA. I plan on doing the same thing in Spokane, only a little better.”
Nembhard’s commitment is the second Gonzaga received Friday, along with that of Wyoming center Graham Ike, whom ESPN has ranked as the No. 21 player in the transfer portal.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.