It’s been a quiet fall for most Florida Gators teams on the recruiting trail, with those teams and their coaches largely preparing for or participating in in-season competition rather than focusing their efforts on bringing in future stars.
But one set of the Gators of the hardwood may have landed just such a player, as top-30 point guard Andrew Nembhard committed to Florida through a tweet on Monday.
Nembhard is a five-star prospect per both 247Sports and Rivals, but a four-star in the eyes of ESPN and Scout — and the 247Composite rankings — and so he checks in at No. 29 in the Recruiting Service Composite Index for the class of 2018.
If Nembhard maintains or improves that ranking, follows through on his verbal commitment, and is not joined in the 2018 class by any higher-rated players, he would be Florida’s best signee since Devin Robinson, the No. 20 player in the 2014 class per RSCI, if not the Gators’ best signee since top-10 2013 signees Kasey Hill and Chris Walker.
The first part of that equation might be simple. Nembhard, who hails from Ontario, became one of the risers and most coveted prospects in the 2018 class by joining it this summer, reclassifying forward from the 2019 class. He possesses great size for a point guard — he’s been widely listed at 6’3” and about 160 pounds, but a DraftExpress video from August pegs him at 6’5”, and Nembhard himself says he’s 6’4” and 190 in the video — and he was smooth enough as a barely high school-aged player in 2016 for some to ask whether he was going to be the best point guard in the 2019 class.
Nembhard has arguably improved since then, and he’s going to play his senior year at vaunted Florida prep school Montverde Academy. Montverde, which has won several national championships — including one with Hill running point — under legendary coach Kevin Boyle, will have fellow Canadian star R.J. Barrett, perhaps the 2018 class’s best prospect after his own reclassification, as a running mate for Nembhard. If anything, the point guard’s stock could still improve.
The latter two segments are more complicated.
Nembhard sticking with Florida would seem more likely at this juncture than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — another precocious Canadian point guard Florida was in on and got a commitment from fairly early — sticking with the Gators was, sure, but Gilgeous-Alexander did ultimately decommit from Florida when some of the college game’s biggest names came calling, and he’ll suit up against Mike White and his team in Kentucky blue this season.
Nembhard is much closer to enrolling at a college now than Gilgeous-Alexander was in November 2015, and Florida is on far better footing after an Elite Eight run in 2017 than it was two years ago, when White had coached just a handful of games at the school, so there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll stick. But that detail about Alexander will linger in stories about Nembhard like this one, thanks to their shared nationality and position.
More happily, it would seem that Nembhard, the first member of the Gators’ 2018 recruiting class, could yet be joined in it by other players as good or better. Noah Locke is not quite on Nembhard’s level — No. 69 in RSCI, No. 70 in the 247Composite — but is another potent point guard, and is set to announce his college commitment on Tuesday evening. Florida is also in on top-10 player Anfernee Simons, a recent Louisville decommit, a slew of other point/combo guards — Devon Dotson, Elijah Weaver, and David Duke — and a couple of big names in tweener forward Emmitt Williams and slashing wing Khavon Moore.
Florida leads the 247Sports-administered Crystal Ball predictions for Locke, Moore, and Simons at the moment, and those three players joining Nembhard in the 2018 class would be enough to give the Gators a fantastic foundation for the future. A class with all four of those players in it would currently be the nation’s No. 1 crop — and while other schools are in on higher-ranked players and would eventually pass such a class, only seven programs finished with a better score in 2017 than that hypothetical class would give the Gators for 2018.
The future, in other words, is quite bright for Mike White’s program. And Nembhard may be just the first twinkle of the year.