Tonight in New York, the NBA will hold its annual player draft. In Minnesota, the talk is of Flip Saunders and which direction he will choose to lead the Wolves in his first draft. For St. Cloud native Nate Wolters, it will be one of the most important nights of his life. The 6-5 point guard, who played his prep hoops at St. Cloud Tech and college ball for the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State, is expected to be drafted sometime between the late first round and the middle of the second round.
Nate Wolters is also a huge fan of the Minnesota Twins. Recently, I had the chance to chat with Wolters about the draft, his collegiate career, and his Twins fandom!
Wolters said, “I went to a couple of Twins games every year growing up. Torii Hunter was my favorite player as a kid. I’ve always been a big Twins fan, but the last couple of years, I started watching just about every game even though it has been tough to watch at times!”
So, what is it about baseball and the Twins that Wolters really enjoys? “I love following the Twins because they play every day. They lose one game and don’t have to wait long to see them play again! (It’s) not like the Vikings’ losses where you’ve got to think about it for the whole week!”
He added, “The Twins just seem like a good group of guys and are easy to root for. Even though they were supposed to really struggle this year, they are only six or seven back and anything can happen in baseball.”
We’ll put him on the spot with some more baseball questions later in this article, but Wolters is about to become a member of the National Basketball Association tonight, so let’s talk some hoops. He was an all-state basketball performer at St. Cloud Tech where he didn’t play baseball. “I actually played tennis as a spring sport. I played baseball until, like, 6th
grade, but I was terrible at it so I thought I should stick to basketball.”
I think it’s fair to say that he made the right choice for himself.
“Basketball has always been my favorite sport and something I spent most of my time doing.” The always-humble Wolters continued, “I was always a good player for my grade. I knew I could possibly have a chance to play in college if I worked hard enough.”
He got that opportunity and became a Jackrabbit. “I picked South Dakota State because I wanted to have the opportunity to play Division I basketball. I loved the coaching staff! Coach Nagy gave me a ton of freedom and had a lot of confidence in me, so I knew I would have the chance to play right away.”
As a freshman, he averaged 24 minutes and scored 10.5 points. He scored 19.5 per game as a sophomore, 21.2 points per game as a junior, and as a senior, he averaged 22.3. In those three years, the point guard averaged 6.1, 5.8, and 5.7 assists per game (which led the Summit League each year). He shot 46% overall as a senior and 38% from three point range. He shot over 81% from the free throw line.
“I had a great experience there, and making the NCAA tourney the last two years was really special for the whole state of South Dakota and the program.”
As well as he and his Jackrabbit teams played, there are always questions about the level of competition.
“Coming from a mid-major like South Dakota State, I really never thought I would be in the position I am in today. Our team success has given me a lot of recognition that I otherwise would not get.”
Since the end of the college season, he has been very busy. “I have had twelve team workouts with NBA teams. It’s been a ton of travel, but it has been an amazing experience. I’m hoping it will all payoff on Thursday.”
I had put Wolters’ Twins knowledge to the test, and he passed! I asked him about the Twins farm system and future. He said, “I don’t know all the minor league guys like you, but heard great things about the farm system. I can’t wait for Buxton and Sano to come up. The future looks really bright with Arcia, Hicks, Buxton and Sano. It will be interesting to see how Gibson does the rest of the season and how Meyer, Berrios and May develop.”
Wolters brought up another point that I really appreciate. “I definitely have a ton of respect for baseball players. They go through so many years in the minors to finally make it to the majors. It has to be very satisfying.”
A friend of his understands well how long and full of ups and downs that process can be. “I’m so happy for Caleb Thielber, who is a friend of mine. (It took) Lots of hard work and dedication by him to get to where he is. He is making the most of it.”
The hope from Wolters would be not to have to endure that! “My goal is to go in the first round. But, whatever happens, I just want to go to a team that is a good fit and somewhere that I can grow as a basketball player.”
I am a guy who enjoys watching drafts. Obviously here at Twins Daily, we put a lot of time and effort into the MLB draft. Although basketball and football don’t pique my interest in the same way as baseball, I can still watch their drafts start to finish. Getting to know an NBA draft prospect from the area who happens to be a huge Twins fan gives us another reason to watch.
When will Nate Wolters be drafted? In looking at several mock drafts and rankings, I have seen him taken anywhere from 21st
overall to 46th
. There seems to be little question that he will be drafted, and his goal of being a first rounder if certainly very possible. Regardless, it is great to see a guy get an opportunity to live out his dream.
Hopefully he’ll be drafted in the first round and go to a place where he’ll get a great opportunity. Twins Daily would like to wish him the best on Thursday night. And who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to see him at some Twins games the rest of this summer!