Tag:Summit League
Posted on: December 20, 2011 5:04 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 5:11 pm

Midseason Mid-Major Mojo: Wolters becoming a star

By Matt Norlander

It's the post we've -- OK, mainly just me -- been waiting for. I'd love to start by proclaiming I have Nate Wolters' phone number and you don't, so let's do that. We may text later. It's cool. I'll be creating many variations of the graphic above, by the way, once South Dakota State gets more photos into the AP and Getty Images picture bins.

And before I get to my conversation with Wolters from Tuesday afternoon, I have to mention that he's very much aware of the Twitter meme that's become my adoration for his play. When people are tweeting at me whenever Wolters cracks the 20-point barrier, it's clearly something I have to attach myself to for the remainder of this season. I eagerly accept the affiliation.

Wolters also knows about Goodman preventing me from including him on our Top 100 College Basketball Players list. Good kid and a quiet one, too. Doesn't want too much attention, but if he keeps up his play, more and more's coming.

Moving on, South Dakota State is now 10-4, fresh off that complete beat-down of Washington, in Washington's house, Sunday afternoon. Wolters went for 34 poitns and seven assists and no turnovers. It was a result that Huskies forward C.J. Wilcox said "shocked" him and his team.

"I think they came out with no energy and we jumped on them early," Wolters said. "Out on the floor, I think they were a little stunned by the start that we had."

It was the win necessary to justify not only what SDSU has done this year, but also critical after losing 89-70 to 5-6 North Dakota last Thursday. It was a terrible loss, unlike the other three the Jackrabbits have taken on this year (Nebraska, Minnesota and Georgia all being Big Six variety, of course). Wolters has been hobbled (though you wouldn't know it) but a bum left ankle, which he tweaked during the Dec. 10 game against North Dakota -- a 92-54 South Dakota State win.

It was ironically followed five days later by a loss to the Fighting Sioux. 

“That North Dakota loss was real bad,” Wolters said.

No matter, the Washington win washed away the bad L, and Wolters is the big reason SDSU is in the running to win the Summit, competing alongside Oakland and Oral Roberts.

Wolters is 6-4, 195 pounds, but was a late-grower in high school. He came to South Dakota State rail thin; he's put on 20 pounds since arriving on campus 27 months ago. Wolters is currently in the top 10 percent nationally in a slew of categories, most notably minutes played, offensive rating, assist rate and turnover percentage. 

His background: you guessed it -- not highly recruited. In fact, South Dakota State didn't catch on until just before his senior season, and a few other late-comers didn't offer him scholarships until his high school playing career was over. Wolters debated SDSU or D-II Augustana, located in Sioux Falls. He very much considered passing up Division-I basketball.

Fortunately for the Jackrabbits and my credibility, he didn't. Now he's one of the most vital players to his team in the nation, akin to Jared Sullinger's value to Ohio State or Thomas Robinson's importance to Kansas. Wolters won't go there, though.

“Our good shooters make it easier on me, so we drive and kick a lot for 3s," he said, transitioning the conversation to what the team needs to work on. “We’re not great defensively now, but we’re definitely better than last year. Our personality is we want to score, play good offense and become more of a defensive-minded team."

You get that kind of spin from media-savvy players at big schools who are used to questions nonstop from October through March. Wolters is high-major in his ability to go full-on boring with a quote. And that's a compliment.

My colleague Jeff Borzello has debated with me this season about the Summit League's best player. He's said it's Oakland's Reggie Hamilton. I recently relented, choosing to go to the dark side and agree with Borzello. The next day Wolters responded with his Washington performance. I won't ever betray that trust again.

As for Hamilton, he and Wolters are actually acquaintances. They never met prior to college, but have connected after games and messaged each other over the past two years. In fact, Wolters told me he reached out and made that first move on Facebook, clicking the friend request button. 

Those two will vie for the Player of the Year award in the Summit. We don't have to wait long to see Part One of their head-to-head: Oakland plays at South Dakota State Dec. 30.

Posted on: March 24, 2011 2:26 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 2:38 pm

Georgia State hits a quiet home run with Hunter

Ron Hunter was a brilliant hire for Georgia State

Posted by Eric Angevine

As we've seen this season, the Colonial Athletic Association is a growing destination for great coaches. Virginia Commonwealth, currently in the Sweet 16, is already in danger of losing Shaka Smart after just two seasons, but they're used to it. They sent Anthony Grant to Alabama and Jeff Capel to Oklahoma without ever breaking stride.

Other coaches, like ODU's Blaine Taylor and Jim Larranaga of George Mason, get frequent mentions for open slots at BCS schools, but neither has jumped yet. Hofstra's Tom Pecora left last season to work on turning around Fordham in the Atlantic 10.

That's great for the schools at the top of the league. What about the rest? Down near the bottom of the standings, year in and year out, are Georgia State and Towson. Both let their coaches go this month after disappointing play doomed their teams once again. Towson hasn't made a hire yet, but Georgia State made a bold move by hiring Ron Hunter away from IUPUI of the Summit League.

Why are these two a match made in heaven?

For Hunter, it's a no-brainer. As much as he might love IUPUI -- he's been there since 1994, when it was a D-II school -- he's only been to the NCAA tournament once since the school became eligible in D-I. That's because the Summit is stuck in one-bid purgatory. Even a great regular season doesn't mean much if a school doesn't win that final game in the league tournament.

The CAA, on the other hand, got three teams in this year for the first time. The last team in, the Rams, is the last one standing. The league's profile is bound to grow as VCU gets more of the spotlight. Nobody has forgotten that George Mason made a Final Four run in 2006, either. The league is sort of a shadow ACC, with teams in major media markets like Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Atlanta, where Hunter will coach. The GSU sports arena only holds 3,400, but that's a darn sight better than the 1,200 that fit in the Jungle in Indianapolis.

That's why Hunter wanted the job, but why did the Panthers want Hunter?

Ron Hunter is an obvious program-builder to those who pay attention. The year his Jaguars moved from D-I independent status to the Summit League, he came in sixth in the new conference. The next season, he was second, and won the auto-bid to play in the NCAA tournament in 2003. His teams have never come in any lower than fourth place since. Do that in the CAA, and you might just visit the Big Dance more often than not.

Hunter is also known as a humanitarian. Many coaches have gone barefoot to benefit the Samaritan's Feet charity, but Hunter was the first, back in January of 2008. It has given him more name recognition (or sole recognition) than any of his basketball exploits. When a program hires Ron Hunter, it broadcasts decency, humanity and security to recruits, parents, and fans. If there's ever a recruiting scandal at Georgia State under his banner, it will be the most shocking of events.

And the man can recruit. Don't doubt it. If you need proof, I'm going to give you one name: George Hill. The 6-foot-2 San Antonio Spurs guard is averaging 11.0 points per game in the NBA this season, despite his humble beginnings at IUPUI. Hill is an Indianapolis native who went to high school up around Butler's end of town, but he ended up with Hunter at the Jungle. Read his tweets @George_Hill3 and you'll get a sense of a man who absorbed that lesson of humility and compassion from Hunter and still displays it as a millionaire professional ballplayer.

Atlanta is undoubtedly richer in talent than Indianapolis. If Hunter can make a habit out of finding the George Hill-type player there, the Panthers will turn around very quickly. That might be easier now than at any other point in GSU's history, as powerhouse Georgia Tech is now behind them in searching for a new coach. Georgia State won't get that many of the great ones, but it only takes one, even one who takes some developing over four years, to make a difference. As a CAA-knowledgeable colleague, Jerry Beach, wrote recently: " Georgia State is also interesting b/c it just began playing football and seems to have designs on moving beyond I-AA as soon as possible (nothing concrete to back that up, just a hunch). That could eventually lift the program into a borderline BCS conference like Conference USA." Interesting, indeed.

All this by way of saying: keep an eye out for Ron Hunter and Georgia State. This could be the start of something big for a humble, shoeless man and an also-ran program.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 2, 2011 12:50 pm

Photo: A season's worth of tip-offs

Detail from the 20 Tips image at Golden Grizzlies Gameplan

Posted by Eric Angevine

Ever since I started writing exclusively about college basketball, I've chosen to look at the big picture, which makes for difficult viewing when you have 345 teams in your field of vision. That's why I've always loved those who choose a team or a conference and dig in for the great moments and details the rest of us might miss.

Corey at Golden Grizzlies Gameplan is one such blogger. He's been writing about Oakland of the Summit League since 2009, which means he was giving props to this team long before they became the 22-9, 17-1 road warriors who took down Tennessee at Thompson-Boling. That was just one victory in an exceedingly brutal trip through the power conferences that may have given the Griz a bit of an edge in toughness that will come in handy in the postseason.

Corey has collected images from 20 tip-offs that encapsulate all the floors the Grizzlies played on this season. It's a great way to see just how tough their non-conference road trip was and how that no doubt draining experience got them ready to dominate in their own league. The image above is just a detail from the full-sized tapestry on the Gameplan home page. Head over and check it out, and you can say you knew them when as they screw up your office mates' brackets.

Photo: Golden Grizzlies Gameplan
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Category: NCAAB
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