While NBA star Kevin Durant didn’t attend this year the Nike Skills Academy that bears his name (the pic above is from last year), South Dakota State star Nate Wolters did, one of 19 college players to earn an invite to the three-day event in Chicago that wrapped Tuesday night.
How did the 6-foot-4 point guard do?
"I thought I did pretty well," he said Wednesday after a workout in Brookings. "It was pretty good competition. I thought I did a good job of competing against them. A lot of them were bigger than me so I tried to hold my own on defense."
That’s in stark contrast to most games with the Jacks, where Wolters usually has a size advantage on the competition. But this camp was designed for swingmen like Durant.
Likewise, Wolters was playing with guys he’d never met – most of them as talented and accomplished as he is. (Wolters was the only guy in NCAA Division I hoops to average 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists last year, leading the Jacks to their first Big Dance berth.)
In other words, he was forced outside of his comfort level. Some say that’s where growth takes place.
"I didn’t take as many shots as I usually do," Wolters said, "but as a point guard I need to be smarter with the ball and take smarter shots."
That – the mental part of the game – was a theme with the instructors, who were highlighted by former Arizona standout Miles Simon. While NBA scouts were on hand, they merely spectated during drills and games, not offering any sort of critiques. This camp was about development more than evaluation.
"You have to think a lot more and especially at the next level if you’re going to play overseas or here," Wolters said. "You can’t just focus on your skills, you have to think the game, and sometimes I don’t do that as much as I should."
That’ll be one of the many things Wolters works on over the next year – that’s roughly how long it is until the next NBA Draft.
As for the more immediate future, he hopes to did well enough in Chicago to earn one of 20 spots in the LeBron James Skills Academy slated for July 6-9 in Las Vegas. That event is for the best performers from the Durant, Deron Williams and Amar’e Stoudamire camps. (There were a total of 49 in those.) He could also gain an invite to an elite Adidas camp scheduled for the first week of August in Los Angeles.
Either way, the experience at the Durant camp was unique and valuable.
"We don’t get to play against high-major guys that often – you only get 3-4 chances a year – and those are the best high-majors in the country," Wolters said. "I thought I played pretty well, and I think it gives me more confidence. I think I can play with most anyone in the country."
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.