clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NEMBHARD HELPS WEBER REGAIN HOOP PROMINENCE

The first time Weber State basketball coach Ron Abegglen saw Ruben Nembhard play the game, he was expecting to see someone else. It was on a recruiting trip in Paris, Texas, four years ago, and Abegglen was scouting "a big post player" whose team happened to be taking on Nembhard's junior college team.

What Abegglen saw instead was a strong, speedy guard who, in his words, "totally dominated the game." At that point, his plans changed. The following fall, Nembhard was a Wildcat, redshirting for a year before leading a resurgence in the Weber basketball program that culminated at this year's NCAA Southeast Regional in Tallahassee, Fla., where the Wildcats nearly reached the Sweet 16.For his efforts, Nembhard has been named the Deseret News Athlete of the Month for March, a month when Weber upset heavily-favored Michigan State and nearly knocked off perennial power Georgetown for the Wildcats' best showing in the NCAA tourney since it expanded to 64 teams.

The quiet native of the Bronx, whose major at Weber is criminal justice, finished his Wildcat career with 999 points. This past season, he led the Big Sky Conference in scoring with a 20.1 points per game average. He was named Big Sky Conference player of the year, beating out Idaho's Jim Potter for the award, and repeated the feat with MVP honors in the postseason tourney in Ogden.

Perhaps just as impressively, Nembhard averaged 5.2 rebounds a game, 4.2 assists (third best in the Big Sky) and was the leader in the conference in steals, averaging 2.3 per game.

"He's a total player, no question about that," Abegglen said of his starting point guard, a player he was also able to post up on occasion and who teammed with fellow senior Lewis Lofton to form "the best rebounding guardline I've ever seen." Nembhard scoring in double figures in 20 of Weber's 30 games this year, leading the Wildcats to a 21-9 overall record. As the season wound down and the Wildcats went on a roll, Nembhard scored 19 or more points in each of Weber's final nine games.

"Ruben's the only guard I can ever recall having at Weber that averaged over 20 points a game for a season," stated Wildcat Sports Information Director Brad Larsen, who's seen plenty of great guards wear the purple and white through the years. "He became the `go-to guy' for us this season on many occasions."

Abegglen said Nembhard possesses the attributes all coaches hope for in their point guards, "great physical size, quickness, the ability to concentrate on the game, and a competitive spirit. Ruben gave us a guard who could dunk the ball, take it to either side of the hoop, and pass off at the last minute. He has great vision of the court."

An inkling of Nembhard's abilities came on a play last season, when the Wildcats played Purdue twice. Working against Boilermaker star Glenn Robinson, Nembhard made Weber's "highlight film" with a thunderous dunk over the Big Dog, a shot they still talk about in Ogden.

This season, it was more of the same. In a critical late-season game at home against archrival Idaho State, Nembhard drove for a layin and changed hands in midflight, a la Michael Jordan, to gently tap one off the glass. His career high of 30 points came against BYU this season in another big game for Weber.

Abegglen said Weber's success this year, due in large part to Nembhard, is bringing his program more attention now than in the past few years. Certainly Ruben Nembhard's play for Weber the past two years is likely to draw a lot of attention, from pro scouts to potential Wildcats who now know about Weber State and Ogden, Utah, thanks to the visibility he helped bring both this season.