Wolters brings focus on fundamentals to Chamberlain
CHAMBERLAIN — Nate Wolters is pretty modest about being the headliner on the billing for a youth basketball camp.
But the "Nate Wolters Basketball Camp" arrived at the Chamberlain Armory near the Missouri River Monday and Wolters was the center of attention for about 150 youth basketball players ranging from grades 3 through 12.
The tournament stressed the fundamentals of how to shoot a layup correctly, improving your dribbling and working on the jump shot. Stressing the fundamentals is fitting, given that the 25-year-old namesake for the camp built his career through improving the fundamentals of his game at South Dakota State University.
"Sanford does a nice job of running the camp and I try to help out when I can," Wolters said. "I think a lot of young guys just want to get in there and shoot but (the camp organizers) do a nice job with ballhandling and the fundamentals."
The camp, which is put on by the staff at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, included grades 3 through 7 for a 90-minute session and grades 8 through 12 for two-and-a-half hours. He was the center of attention for much of the camp, with campers seeking autographs and photos with him following the workout session.
Wolters admitted it would be hard for a camp of two-plus hours to have much of a life-long impact but he tried to leave a nugget or two for the young basketball campers.
"I went to a lot of camps like these as a kid and it's only a couple of hours, so you're really not going to get much done," Wolters said. "It's more just a chance to get a couple of tips and things to work on or hopefully something a coach says will resonate with them."
Sanford Power Basketball Academy Coordinator Allan Bertram, who coached the Chamberlain boys basketball team for 12 years, said Wolters' story is the perfect model for many players in rural South Dakota.
"We bring in a lot of really good players. Their story is a lot different from Nate's," Bertram said. "Even if you go to a small Division I school like SDSU, you can be a pro. If you go to a small high school, you can do it. A guy like Nate is a testament to kids in small-town South Dakota, that you can dream big and things can happen."
Standing at 6-foot-4, Wolters towers over almost everyone in the Cubs' home gym, especially the numerous young players that barely make it to his waist. But during a question-and-answer session with the campers, Bertram broke the news to the kids that Wolters is considered small by NBA point-guard standards.
Bertram countered that by saying Wolters created his own game through time in the gym.
"I think it's a great tool to tell everyone else that he comes from a town just like us," Bertram said. "He's a kid that percentage-wise, should have never made it. And he made himself into a player. So if Nate Wolters can do it, anyone can do it."
Wolters, a native of St. Cloud, Minnesota, is the all-time leading scorer at SDSU, scoring 2,363 points. He was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft and played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the New Orleans Pelicans, playing a total of 79 games over the course of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
Last season, he played in Istanbul, Turkey, for the basketball club Besiktas and averaged 15.6 points per game. Earlier this year, he played for the Indiana Pacers and the Washington Wizards in each team's respective summer leagues.
As for Wolters' pro future, he's not totally sure what's next. He said he's weighing his options, with a preference for trying out an NBA training camp this fall.
"Right now, I'm just kind of waiting and weighing my options," Wolters said. "There's some things overseas that I could take but I just want to weigh my options to see if something good will open up where I can do a training camp with a team. That's kind of the number one option and then sort of wait it out from there."
Wolters knows he's in a precarious place in the world of pro basketball, good enough to keep playing but struggling to find his permanent spot where everyone wants to be: the NBA.
"There's a lot of guys like me that are kind of on the fringe," he said. "Yeah, in the right situation, you can be successful in the NBA but it's all about being in the right situation and I just have to continue to work hard and make the most out of whatever opportunity I get."
For Bertram, he appreciates the chance to return to his old home. Since taking the Pentagon job in Sioux Falls in 2014, he's made it a point to bring professional basketball players to more rural parts of North and South Dakota, such as when former Duke University star Christian Laettner visited Winner for a camp in November 2014.
"Sometimes when you're in Sioux Falls, everything is right there and immediate, that they forget about the other parts of the state," Bertram said. "Everybody has that same chance and I think it's been very successful. It means a lot to come back to Chamberlain where I coached for a long time, places like Winner and Colome where I grew up. It's something that's important to me that we bring these guys to these towns so that they can experience this."