All of the national attention Nate Wolters received at South Dakota State over the last few years focused on his ability to put the ball in the basket, with good reason.
The 6-foot-4-inch guard was a 2,300-point scorer in college and increased his scoring average each year before pouring in a career-high 22.3 points per game last season on his way to Summit League player of the year honors and his third all-league selection.
Many fans became aware of Wolters when he hit nine 3-pointers on his way to a Division I-high 53 points in a February game at IPFW.
Wolters holds just about every scoring record at both his college and high school, St. Cloud (Minn.) Tech.
It’s a completely different record that may prove more valuable in his quest to make it in the NBA.
Wolters also holds the all-time South Dakota State record with 663 assists.
He knows he must be a distributor at the next level and he is working to show his ability to do so with Milwaukee in the NBA Summer League this week.
“I think they see me more as a point guard than a two-guard,” Wolters said after the Bucks were eliminated from title contention with a 72-68 loss to the Lakers at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday. “In college, I was a huge scorer. That’s probably not going to be the case here. Just come in when I’m called and get other guys involved and put guys in position to make plays.”
He actually feels his college experience may have been more beneficial than one would think at first glance.
“I had the ball in my hands so much and we ran pick-and-roll a lot. I think it will be an easy adjustment that way. We ran kind of an NBA offense,” he said. “They gave me a ton of freedom. That really helps and I’m just looking forward to this next challenge.”
Wolters has struggled a bit with his shot this week, knocking down just 10 of 31 shots through four games. He has also failed to connect on any of his 3-point attempts.
After missing his first six shots on Thursday, he did start to find a rhythm as the Bucks rallied in the fourth quarter. Wolters made 4 of 5 shots from the field, including a steal and layup that tied the game with 2:56 to play. He finished with 10 points.
Perhaps more importantly, he recorded four assists and no turnovers and leads the team with 11 assists through four games, while turning the ball over just four times in 90 minutes of action.
Wolters offers a modest assessment of how he projects at the NBA level, comparing himself to Goran Dragic and Greivis Vasquez.
“Those kind of bigger point guards that set up other guys,” he said. “I’m not super explosive or anything like that. I’m just trying to be a smart player and make plays for others.”
Wolters was selected in the second round at No. 38 overall by Washington, then traded immediately to Philadelphia and then the Bucks.
Milwaukee was probably a good landing spot for Wolters, not just because it’s a Midwestern location not far from where he’s always played. The Bucks have had a tremendous amount of turnover in the backcourt and are reportedly still shopping incumbent point guard Brandon Jennings.
“We’re really excited to have Nate, to have a big guard,” Bucks general manager John Hammond told Fox Sports Wisconsin this month. “He scored at South Dakota State because his team needed him to do that, but he has a great feel for the game and a great knowledge of how to play the game.”
As a second-round pick, there are no guarantees of money or roster spots. Wolters said he tries not to follow the fluid situation in Milwaukee.
“I’m just thankful to be a part of the team right now and my job is just to try to get better every day and learn from the coaches and the vets,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that opportunity.”
He does draw some inspiration from some of the other under-the-radar players to find recent success in the league, though.
“I think you do (have to prove yourself a little more) being from a small school,” he said. “It’s definitely a big step up to the NBA. There’s been mid-major guys, especially lately, doing really well. Look at a guy like (Damian) Lillard.
“This year, half the point guards were mid-major guys. There’s an adjustment, but they’ll find you if you can play.”
Even if you played a totally different role.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.