Can Nate Wolters channel Bryce Drew?
by Gerry Ahern, USA TODAY Sports
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Nate Wolters isn’t Cinderella.
South Dakota State is.
When the 13th-seeded Jackrabbits try to knock off No. 4 Michigan on Thursday in an NCAA second-round game at the Palace, they’ll need a fabled effort from their brilliant point guard, who has a history of making national headlines.
Wolters, a National Player of the Year candidate, drew attention to himself in February by striking for 53 points in a win over IPFW. It was the highest-scoring individual effort in a game this season.
What the country read about after that night was a prolific scorer, a player capable of taking a game over, a future NBA talent.
What Wolters saw was a victory.
“It’s a team game,” he said. “We’re just focused on trying to win.”
That attitude is typical of the reserved Wolters, once a lightly regarded player out of St. Cloud, Minn., overlooked by Division I programs before settling in and starring in Brookings, S.D.
It would be easy for teammates to be jealous of such skills and acclaim. But Wolters is revered by his supporting cast.
Because he practices hard. Because he defends doggedly. Because he’s remained grounded in the midst of the hype.
“I really admire how he handles himself on and off the court,” senior forward Tony Fiegen said. “He receives so much press, but he remains humble. As a teammate I really appreciate that because a lot of our success is attributable to him. It just speaks about his character.”
Perhaps no player better understands how One Shining Moment can change the course of history quite like Bryce Drew.
It was Drew whose 23-point three-pointer at the buzzer off a length-of-the court inbounds play lifted 13th-seeded Valparaiso into the national consciousness with an upset of fourth-seeded Mississippi 15 years ago. Drew’s heroics are known in NCAA lore simply as “The Shot.”
Drew is here now as the Valparaiso coach. He has been impressed with the way Wolters conducts himself on the court and in the spotlight.
“Nate’s a tremendous player,” Drew said. “I actually got the opportunity to see him play Baylor, my brother’s team, last year in the first round of the tournament. … [For more on South Regional (Auburn Hills): Does SDSU's Nate Wolters have Bryce Drew in him?, click here.]