Nate Wolters has been somewhat of an enigma in college basketball the past two seasons.
Despite putting up consist 20-point games for the better part of his career, Wolters has gotten lost in the shuffle of the mid-major ranks while playing at South Dakota State. It wasn’t until December 2011 when SDSU scored a victory at Washington that Wolters started to get some publicity for his abilities. The college basketball national landscape began to pay attention to the St. Cloud, Minnesota native. In the game, Wolters dropped 34 points on 10-20 shooting in a Jackrabbit 92-73 rout.
South Dakota State would go onto win the Summit League Tournament and earn the school’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament this past March, where they would drop a heartbreaker to 3-seed Baylor 68-60.
Coming into the 2012-13 campaign, Wolters and SDSU were heavily favored to earn a repeat trip to the “big dance” out of the Summit League. In the first game of the season, SDSU traveled to play Alabama in the 2K Sports Classic. Wolters took the national spotlight and ran with it. Showing off his retooled three-point shooting stroke, Wolters knocked down five of his six attempts from long range, finishing the game with 30 points, only to lose the contest to a Trevor Lacey buzzer-beater three.
After that, Wolters went back to being just another high-profile mid-major player whom many knew about but few discussed frequently. That was until Wolters, coming off of a bad ankle injury that affected his play the previous two games, went 9-15 from the field for 28 points in SDSU’s victory over then 16-ranked New Mexico in The Pit, again in December. The win marked the Jackrabbit’s first victory over a national ranked opponent in the school’s five year run in Division-I ranks.
After a week of praise from media personnel, Wolters and SDSU got lost in the shuffle as the rest of December proved to be disappointing for the Jacks. SDSU ended up dropping two road games at North Dakota State and South Dakota to start conference play 1-2. SDSU found their groove in January, rattling off five straight victories to end the month and earn a three-way tie on top of the Summit League with NDSU and Western Illinois.
Enter February 7, 2013.
In what was supposed to be a relatively easy conference road victory over Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, SDSU struggled to get anything going offensively, finding themselves down by as many as 11 points to the Mastodons. Wolters finished the first half with 15 points but SDSU trailed 37-29 at halftime.
From there, it was the Nate Wolters show.
In the second half, Wolters put the Jackrabbits on his back to led them to a comeback victory. “They were sagging off of me and my shot felt pretty good tonight,” Wolters said after the 80-74 victory.
That shot must have been feeling pretty damn good in the second half. Wolters nailed six more three-pointers and finished the game with a total of 9 for 14 shot attempts from beyond the arc.
SDSU needed a hero Thursday night and Wolters put on the Superman cape on, finishing the game with a Division I season-high 53 points on 17-28 shooting overall for the game. Both the point total (53) and made three-pointers (9) for the game are school records. The previous season-high point total came from Summit League foe Travis Bader of Oakland, who notched 47 points in a victory over IUPUI on Jan. 24.
Immediately after the outstanding scoring performance, social media took over. Twitter blew up with recaps of Nate Wolters’ great performance, many using the hashtag made famous by CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander, #NatersGonnaNate.
Those who know Wolters and his laid back demeanor, such as SDSU head coach Scott Nagy, know that despite the great accomplishment, “Nate Wolters would be the first to tell you it was a team win,” Nagy would tweet after the game.
While many college basketball fans will remember the game in which he scored 53 points and made all those shots, Nate would rather you remember SDSU’s accomplishments as a team. That’s just the type of person he is.
For now, fans will have to live off of highlights of Nate’s incredible game. That is, until February 23 when SDSU travels to Murray State for the annual Bracket Busters game. Wolters will be pitted against another high profile mid-major guard in Isaiah Canaan. The game can be viewed on ESPN2 at 8pmEST.
Wolters may have finally put his name back on the national spotlight for good with his incredible performance and may have boosted his NBA Draft stock along the way. He will no longer be the enigma of college basketball. He’s been dubbed Nate “The Great” Wolters by many.
For now, let’s just stick with an oldie, but a goodie: Naters Gonna Nate.