Vaughan Grade 9 point guard Andrew Nembhard shines for Voyageurs

Andrew Nembhard received some simple but important advice from a guy who has been in his shoes prior to the 2014-15 basketball season.

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Before heading to his first NBA training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves, former Vaughan Secondary School star Andrew Wiggins popped by his old gym, where some current Voyageurs were working out.

"He just told me to keep working hard," said Nembhard, who enter the Ontario Federation School of Athletic Associations quadruple-A championship this week in Windsor as an intriguing underdog thanks in large part to their star Grade 9 point guard.

The 6-foot-3, 15-year-old will be one of the players in the spotlight at the 18-team event. Gus Gymnopoulos, Vaughan's longtime coach, compares Nembhard to Tyler Ennis, the Brampton-born point guard now plying his trade for the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.

While it seems unlikely Nembhard will reach Wiggins' heights this year (Vaughan won OFSAA in 2011 in the NBA's first overall pick's only year with the school before heading south), Gymnopoulos feels "the sky is the limit" for the floor general.

For most of his club career, Nembhard has played on a team with players two years older than himself. His dad, Claude, coached many of those squads.

"We were confident quietly (he could make a big impact in his first year of high-school ball) because the Grade 11s, he's played against them," Claude said. "The Grade 12s, we know them very well. (His play) has surprised a lot of people. I don't want to say we're not surprised, but we had high expectations."

Andrew has played point guard since he started, unlike his dad, who was a centre. Claude, a first-year cut at York University, said his experience helped him frame Andrew's development.

"We had a plan in place to maximize his potential ... If God willing he'd have the size and ability to handle the ball, he'd be used to it," Claude said.

Also a strong soccer player (he was a member of a Toronto FC Academy team for one season), Andrew Nembhard says he models his game after Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving.

Nembhard scored 17 points to lead Vaughan to a 51-35 win over Thornhill's Thornlea Thunder in the York Region championship game.

"He single-handedly won them the game to go to OFSAA," York University coach Tom Oliveri said.

However, the Voyageurs ended up with just the 10th seed at OFSAA. They face the No. 9 St. Mary's Eagles of Kitchener in the first round.

"I think there are a couple teams (ranked) ahead of us, we think we're better than," said Nembhard. "I guess we'll have to prove them wrong."

With Nembhard on the court, you can't count Vaughan out.

"He's a great kid," Gymnopoulos said. "He's very good academically, he's humble, he's basically what you'd want your son to turn out to be. He's unselfish and mature beyond his years."

Nembhard plans to stay at Vaughan at least another year, but may look to play prep ball down south -- like Wiggins -- before college. For now, Claude is thrilled his son is playing under the same guy who coached Wiggins to an OFSAA title.

"I think Gus is the best coach in the city," Claude said. "He's fundamentally sound, he's tough on the kids and he cares."


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