The rise of Keller guard R.J. Nembhard last season as a sophomore was a big lift to a team which had just seen another game-changing player come on the scene in his sophomore season the year prior.
Nolan Taylor started making a name for himself early and has progressed in his skill set for Keller, and has become a mentor, of sorts, for Nembhard.
Now in his junior year, Nembhard is averaging 21 points, seven rebounds and about four assists per game.
His success wasn’t a surprise as Nembhard said he had put in the work during the summer and off-season.
“Honestly, I probably did think things would go well with the way things were going,” Nembhard said. “It was all the little things I did in my freshman year that I got under my belt that helped.”
Some of the credit, Nembhard said, goes to Taylor.
“Nolan had the same freshman experience and he let me mature a bit,” Nembhard said of Taylor, who’s now a senior. “He helped me grow as a player along with my teammates. On and off the court, he’s been a friend to me. We go to church together, even. He’s a big part of my development.”
The key for Nembhard, he said, is his ability to make plays for himself and more importantly, help his teammates make plays.
The strength of Nembhard is predominantly in his mid-range shooting, although he never hesitates to take the ball to the basket or capitalize on an open 3-point attempt.
Asked how he would best defend against his own game, Nembhard said the approach would have to be multifaceted.
“I’d make it as hard as possible,” he said of conjecturing a scouting report on himself. “You’d have to try and get me off my game and rattle me. Switch up defenders and keep me off balance.”
The problem is, Nembhard can take most anything thrown his way and make adjustments.
“I’m more lethal at the mid-range but I’ll attack the basket. I can post up on guards and I just try to be an all-around playmaker for the situation I’m in,” he said. “I don’t lean on the 3-ball too much, maybe two to three a game. It’s cool to watch [shooting 3s] but I’ll leave that to the professionals.”
There’s still plenty Nembhard said he wants to improve upon, including rebounding.
“Coach [Randall] Durant is usually telling me I need to look for more rebounds and that I don’t have to make the home run play. I don’t have to make the long pass or home run play or move. Just keep it simple, nothing flashy,” he said.
Nothing flashy is working just fine for Nembhard and the Indians. The team has gotten past its slower-than-desired start and has key players back on the court from injury.
“We’ve been picking it up tremendously,” Nembhard added. “Collectively we’ve got down to the little things and having tougher practices. The chemistry is better, too. We’re having a solid year and picking it up in the district season. We need to just keep it going.”
Keller knocked off Denton Ryan on Friday, with Taylor scoring 21 and Nembhard 15.