Canadian prospect Andrew Nembhard discusses what he learned playing for Nick Nurse with Team Canada, what the Raptors meant to him growing up and details his assorted workouts with NBA teams.
- How did things go today?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: I thought they went well. Good energy in the group, good compete level. Guys were having fun. Sure.
- Andrew, I asked Caleb the same question. I mean, given you guys' background, is it kind of weird to be here working for the Raptors? Like, [INAUDIBLE].
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah. Yes. I think it's something, when you're going through the process, it becomes-- it feels so natural. But it's like something when you look back, I'm just so grateful putting on this jersey. As a kid growing up, watching these games and stuff, it's like you take stuff like this for granted. But huge opportunity, I'm very, very blessed to be in this position.
- How have you found this whole process? This whole workout grind?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Oh, it's been good. It's been tough, physically, mentally. You've got to stay strong throughout the process, a lot of traveling to a new city, new day, for the next two or three weeks in a row. I just got to stay strong, just got to keep your compete level up, keep that same energy every day. People are getting fresh eyes on you, so you don't want to look tired or lazy, nothing like that.
- We all saw the reports out of Chicago. You had that great game [INAUDIBLE] the big [INAUDIBLE] for the combine. How does that change this whole process? Or did it?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: I think it changed a little bit just getting more and more interest higher in the draft, I think. Yeah. I think teams are starting considered me earlier and earlier.
- Do you kind of face the decision, maybe in the last couple of years, should you go back to school, should you stay in? And what benefit did you get from playing using all your eligibility?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, I think you just grow up so much from freshman year to senior year. I think you mature. Your mind-- my mind set is in a whole different place than it was when I was coming out of my freshman year. I think my body's in a better place.
I think I'm more-- I'm just more ready to take that leap. Everybody talks about the adjustment period from high school to college, college to the NBA. And I'm much more prepared for that leap now I think. I'm super excited about it.
- How strongly did you consider coming out at the end of [INAUDIBLE]?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: I thought about it a little bit after my second year, when I was at Florida. Then ended up making that decision to switch schools. And at 30 I didn't really consider wanting to come back, get a bigger role, prove more. Sure.
- How do you feel your game has changed in the last couple of years?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: I think I learned more how to play with good players. Move off the ball, play without it, be efficient in my limited catches. I think I also improved my jump shooting ability. You saw the numbers increase.
I think I fixed some mechanics. So I saw growth there. I think I saw growth in my body too. Just being able to move better. Being able to guard multiple positions at the college level, I want to see that translate, sure.
- Andrew, what was that process like? Because like you said, your 3-point percentage [INAUDIBLE] went way up. What was the process of improving those mechanics?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, the process for me was getting my guide hand out of the way of the ball. Getting that off the ball, getting my flick consistent and strong, and trying to push through the ball. Those are the main two fixes I made. And I think I saw some real growth in it this year.
- Who were you working with in identifying that?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: It's been a process that I've been working on for a while. I've had coaches coming up from younger, like-- Nathaniel Mitchell is a guy who has been coaching me for a long time. He's kind of helped me with those mechanical changes early on. And then started repping it with Gonzaga coaches. They give their two cents as well.
- What did the Raptors organization mean to you growing up? You know, just watching them?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, the Raptors organization means everything for a basketball player coming out of the city. When I was real, real young, basketball wasn't at that point yet where it was becoming big in Canada. And you could just see the growth, and just the love for the Raptors just keep growing. Especially with that championship recently. It's just-- this is the time for this city and basketball.
- When you go through this-- and I presume you went through it in high school too, and you saw RJ to go through it-- how difficult is it to keep focused on what you're doing, versus getting caught up in, oh, my name's up on this draft, and down on that draft? You know, any kind of news that sort of circulates around this time, in these kinds of-- types of things?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, I think you just want to focus on yourself. You want to control the controllable things and you want to not worry about other people's journeys. Just work on yourself and your pace is going to go-- your time is going to come when your time comes.
You want to be ready when that time comes, and then be patient and keep working on your game. And the biggest thing is you need one team to like you. You don't need all 30. So like I was saying, come in every day with new eyes, and keep bringing that same energy. You can impress one of these teams.
- Did you have a strategy maybe [INAUDIBLE] recruiting guys in high school where you kind of go-- you don't look at certain websites, and you don't have certain social media on your phone?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, I think when I was younger, looking at that stuff would kind of alter my mental. I think now I could look at that stuff and it goes in one eye, goes out the other type of thing. I can filter that stuff now.
- Did they have you work out with a bunch of guys, like in a group setting or a team workout sort of thing?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, it was six guys. Six guys working out today.
- Do you feel like for your game to show its strengths, you need to have a couple of guys, so that it's not just one-on-one or one-on-O workouts, that you want to be in a group setting?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: I think I can show up in both, honestly. I think I got a high skill level, which we'll show in those one-on-one, one-on-O type of workouts. And I think I know how to play with others, play kind of read and react type of hoops.
When guys are coming, new environment, new guys-- I think that's where I can excel, because I just know how to hoop with other guys. So I think both are good for me.
- What [INAUDIBLE] basically playing with better players? How was that part of your makeup as a player?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, I think it's something I've grown up doing. I've been blessed to play on a bunch of good national teams, a bunch of good AU programs growing up with a bunch of good other players. I think you just-- at this level everybody's good. You got to be able to fit in, fit a role.
There's only a couple of guys on the team-- the Pascal and the whoever it is-- the Kawhis on the team. You got to be able to play around those guys and make them better, as well as being efficient in your touches. And I think I've grown to become better in that sense.
- A lot of guys, obviously, come in [INAUDIBLE] the best player on your team. Then they get to the NBA and you're not.
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah.
- How do you rationalize that? How do you-- what's your mental approach to that?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, just being able to fit in, like I was saying. Just being able to bring things without the ball in your hands, or with limited touches. Not being-- like when you're not scoring the ball, what are you doing? I think that's where I excel.
- Did Gonzaga help with that? Because I mean, obviously, that team's loaded, right? Has that made you better prepped than it might have been being the number one guy at a smaller school?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: 100%. 100%. I think I've had a lot of teams like that. But I think Gonzaga was just another example of a team where you got to fit in. You're not going to score 20 a night. You're going to score-- Five guys will score 15, or 11 or 12. So, yeah.
- How does that draft process change, I guess, after-- when you're in season, and you're focused on winning, and then your season ends and it's a tough loss, and it's all that sort of thing. And then you got to deal with the offseason, and you're just looking ahead to a couple of months where you don't have any games to play. So how does the mindset change? Or does it change?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, definitely. I think the season's so long, you put so much energy into it mentally, physically. For me it took me a little second to kind of just relax and take my mind off of it. Kind of take a little break. Didn't really play much for a week or so.
And then that's a part of the game. There's new seasons, new things coming up, new opportunities. So you've got to kind of switch your mentality. I started focusing on the draft, started focusing on what I need to get better at.
- And just from a mental standpoint, obviously. You know, it's a big leap in your life to try and make that jump to professional basketball. How do you wrap your head around taking that next step?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: I think it's just something I've always wanted to do. I've always wanted to keep getting better, keep challenging myself against the best players. And this is the next step. This is the highest level. And I've always wanted to do it. So I'm excited. But I don't think I take it as big of a jump as people might think.
- Andrew, what's it like for you to see how synonymous Canada has become with basketball? You know, you watch the Finals, Andrew Wiggins is playing. You see how many Canadians are in the NCAA. Scarborough is getting a team. What's it like to see all that happen?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Man, it's just nice, man. I see the city just coming together like that. That game you were talking about, the Scarborough game, it just brings the community together. I think that's the best thing that basketball is doing. Giving younger guys more opportunities. The community is coming together. So I just see all positives in basketball in Canada.
- Have you spoken to anybody currently on the Raptors? Do you have any sort of relationship there? And what have they told you about them?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, I've got a couple of friends on the team. Like Khem Birch, Chris Boucher, those guys. I know Dalano a little bit. I mean, I've been coached by this coaching staff too, so I kind of really know how they do stuff, a little bit. They haven't given me too much.
- What's your relationship like with Nick?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: With Nick, it's good, man. I think being the young guy on the team I kind of, like, get the hardest coaching on the National team. But we got good relationship.
- Do you feel like it helps you that you kind of know what he wants out of that [INAUDIBLE]?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: Yeah, I think for sure. I think it definitely would help me if I was to get picked by a team like this. Coming in, feeling comfortable with the coaching staff, and an already knowing how Nick runs his stuff and goes about himself.
- What are the main things that you know he looks for?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: I think he loves versatility on both sides of the floor, guys that he can plug-in and be able to switch to multiple positions. I think he likes guys who are consistent and are going to come in to the game and give him the same thing night in, night out.
I think when I was young playing for him, I would be inconsistent. Turn the ball over a little bit too much. And I think that's something I would like to change if I was to come play for him. For sure.
- How do you find he manages stuff like that? Where you're inconsistent, and you're turning it over, what do you find his communication style [INAUDIBLE]?
ANDREW NEMBHARD: I think he is a straight shooter. I think he just lets you know how it is. He doesn't like to baby guys. And I think that's been successful for him.