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Gonzaga guard and Barbarians coach win Athlete & Coach of the Year

October 22, 2020   ·   0 Comments

(Pictured Above: Andrew Nembhard’s father, Claude, accepts Sport Aurora’s Athlete of the Year on behalf of his son. Auroran photo by Brock Weir )

One of Canada’s rising basketball stars and a chiropractor who is also a rugby coach have taken home Sport Aurora’s most prestigious annual prizes.

Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard and Aurora Barbarians head coach Dr. Nick Daniels were formally awarded their Athlete of the Year and Coach of the Year honours last week.

These prizes would normally be presented at the Sport Aurora’s Breakfast of Champions banquet, but since this year’s event is cancelled, the awards were personally delivered on Wednesday and Thursday.

The 6’5 Gonzaga Bulldogs point-guard Nembhard wasn’t home to receive it this year, however he did say he never anticipated to win this award.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect it at all. It kind of came out of nowhere. My dad told me about it. It’s definitely nice living [in Aurora] my whole life and being recognized by people in my Town. It’s a great honour for sure,” Nembhard said over the phone from Spokane, Washington.

Nembhard has always been athletic. When he was young, he played rep soccer and house league basketball in Aurora.

Soccer, he says, was a hobby and he was fortunate to have a knack for it. He loved basketball, however, and held it at a higher level. That was his love and that is what he would pursue.

He captained his high school basketball team at Vaughan Secondary before making a move to Montverde Academy in Florida in Grade 11. He captained that side and led the school to a 32-0 season while also representing Canada.

He was recruited out of high school on a full scholarship to the University of Florida and, following a few years down south, along with a 2019 FIBA World Cup appearance with Team Canada, he is now taking his talents to Gonzaga University.

“When I was looking at schools, I was really looking for things that really meant a lot to me like style of play, family environment and winning culture,” he says.

This year, he opted out of the NBA draft. Under NCAA transfer rules, he must sit out this year.

Nembhard says he will take this time to hone his craft and develop his game. He continues to bond with his teammates, practicing with them and watching film.

Nembhard averaged 11.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists with the Gators this past season. When he returns to Aurora, he volunteers at his father’s basketball academy True Fundamentals and frequently visits his alma mater St. Jerome Catholic Elementary School.

His father, Claude Nembhard, officially received the award on behalf of his son in front of their home.

“It’s nice because he was born here, born and raised in a small town. He’s gotten to the next level with the sport that he loves and we’re proud to receive this honour in our Town.”

At the Aurora Barbarians rugby practice last Thursday, Dr. Nick Daniels was presented the coach of the year award.

Daniels, began playing rugby as a teenager. He played provincially with Team Ontario as a junior U-19 and U-21 while also appearing for the men’s team. He played in Toronto before taking his talents to McMaster University. He still plays rugby to this day.

Daniels transformed his on-the-pitch talents to crafting an art as a coach. He has won two Provincial championships in the past five years with the Barbarians, including an undefeated season last year with the U-17 girls’ team.

He also has a few international championships under his belt, winning the 7’s championship in New York City in November 2019 and a victory at the Paris World Games.

Prior to his practice, he said he was unaware that another Barbarians coach, Scott Bullock, nominated Daniels for the prize.

“I didn’t even know it existed. It was a nice surprise,” Daniels said.

“It’s very humbling. You put in a lot of time and effort. You don’t do it for accolades, but it’s nice to be appreciated, for sure.”

Daniels says Rugby Ontario has altered the age group from U-17 to U-18. He will have a full roster heading into next year; should everything operate fluidly, and hopes to pick up where he left off in their “winning ways.”

By Robert Belardi



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