The 9th best scorer in Division I last season, Nate Wolters
built on the momentum he gained during his breakout sophomore season to establish himself as one of the premier mid-major players in the country as a junior. Earning Summit League Tournament Most Valuable Players honors in leading South Dakota State to its first ever NCAA appearance, Wolters substantiated the buzz he had generated among scouts with a 19-point, 4-assist effort in the first round against a Baylor Bears rosters littered with NBA talent and athleticism. Already off to a fast start as a senior, Wolters ranks among the most serious threats to lead the nation in scoring and is clearly one of the senior point guard prospects in the country regardless of level of competition.
Standing 6'4, Wolters has excellent size for a point guard, a key component of his offensive dominance at the college level. Lacking great lateral quickness, leaping ability, and speed, Wolters plays at his own pace, but finds ways to get to the rim by changing speeds off the dribble and gets his shot off inside the arc by virtue of his creativity and size.
It is Wolters's ability to create off the dribble and score inside the arc that makes him such a potent offensive threat and an intriguing point guard prospect. Functioning as his team's primary ball-handler, main distributor, and go-to-guy, Wolters has the ball in his hands as often as any player in the country. With nearly one-third of his possessions coming in isolation situations, another quarter coming on the pick and roll, and a little over 20% coming as the ball-handler in transition, Wolters is a polarizing figure for the Jackrabbits, but turned the ball over on just 11% of his possessions last year.
A steady ball-handler who seldom forces the issue, Wolters doesn't beat defenders with quickness, but he's very adept at picking and choosing his spots off the dribble and scoring from various spots on the floor. Even if he's not blowing by defenders, Wolters uses his craftiness to find angles to the rim where he's gotten significant better and drawing fouls, finishing at an impressive 59% rate last season.
When his defender cut him off and he wasn't able to get all the way to the rim, the then-junior showed the ability to use his floater and pull-up jump shot to score under duress inside the arc. Knocking down 36% of both types of shots last season, Wolters makes difficult off-balance shots on the move from the midrange with regularity, shooting over the top of smaller guards or spinning and leaning away to score around opposing big men. Coupling his usage with his savvy offensive game and low-turnover rate, and it isn't hard to see why Wolters ranked among the 30 most prolific per-40 minute pace adjusted scorers
in college basketball last season.
In addition to his scoring ability, Wolters is also an exceptional passer. Ranking among the top 20 players in the country in pure point rating
(a weighted variation of A:TO ratio developed by John Hollinger) in the college game last season, the Saint Cloud native is an extremely effective play-maker for a scorer of his caliber. Showing a knack for finding teammates in rhythm in South Dakota State's half-court sets, Wolters also shows tremendous vision in firing the ball to teammates when he attacks the basket off the dribble.
Despite his many merits on the offensive end, Wolters still has a number of areas to improve in, the most significant of which may be his ability to consistently knock down shots from beyond the arc. After shooting a terrific 41% from distance on 3.3 attempts per-game as a sophomore, Wolters took a step back as a junior, knocking down just 24.1% of his 4.0 attempts per-game last year. Though the vast majority of his 3-point attempts come late in possessions off the dribble and not in the typical catch-and-shooting situations most 40+% 3-point shooters enjoy, Wolters would benefit from a season of more consistent shooting from the perimeter, whether his attempts come inside or outside of the arc.
On the defensive end, Wolters faces significant questions about whether he can hold his own at the next level. Lacking great lateral quickness, Wolters is not always able to stay in front of quicker guards. He has however developed some strategies to overcome that, consistently leaving himself a cushion against quicker players, recognizing where his help is, and giving up a jump shot before a layup. Wolters could stand to get stronger to help himself fight over screens and hold up against the more athletic guards he'd encounter in the NBA, but he simply doesn't have the athletic profile of a stalwart defensive player.
Already propelling his team to a 2-0 record this season, Wolters has started his senior season off right. If he can have a strong year shooting the ball and continue to do the things that he did at a high level last season, there's no question he'll help himself in the eyes of scouts as he looks to carry the Jacks back to the NCAA Tournament.