The third part of the 2012-2013 Cavalier Basketball recruiting class, ranked 17th nationally by ESPN, is wingman Evan Nolte. We looked at Teven Jones and Mike Tobey the past two days; now, let's see how the best pure shooter of the class will fit in.
Nolte was the second Hoo to commit to Tony Bennett, announcing his decision way back in April 2011. (It's amazing to consider how early UVA's class was formed; keep in mind that top-ranked prospects Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad didn't announce their plans to attend Kentucky and UCLA respectively until last week).
Nolte, a 6'-8" forward, came out of Milton High School in the suburbs of Atlanta. He picked up over 20 scholarship offers, including ones from Ohio State, Clemson, Florida, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech, but ultimately narrowed his decision to UVA and Georgia before deciding on Virginia.
"It was a really tough decision, and it just came down to my gut feeling," Nolte told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "I kind of want to blaze my own trail and go somewhere new and out of state. Virginia felt like home to me and I've always had dreams about playing in the ACC."
Nolte's dreams come true this fall, when he will bring a unique combination of size and skill to Tony Bennett's squad. Any discussion of his skill set starts with his ability to hit the 3-ball. He can play as a true wing-playing and has deep range...to say the least. ESPN reports that "when he heats it up he has the ability to go on a run to knock down five or six deep ones in a row no matter how he is guarded," which seems like lots of fun. Scouts also rave about his high-intensity, high-effort manner of playing and high basketball IQ, which leads to his ability as a strong passer and off-ball mover. On the defensive side, his size could give opponents fits, especially when he plays the 3.
Obviously, Evan still needs plenty of developing, especially to break out of the "catch-and-shoot" mold. He has work to do on his ball handling, and he'll have to improve his mid-range game if he wants to be a more dynamic player. I expect that the speed of the college game will cause some initial trouble, but his ability to shoot the 3 will be the perfect way for him to gain a comfort zone.
As a first-year, I can picture Nolte playing similarly to a rough combo of Paul Jesperson and the first-year version of Joe Harris. Like Nolte, the two are wings with the potential to play bigger; Nolte has the ability to play the 4, which Tony Bennett has discussed, though he prefers playing outside as a wing. Harris had a successful freshman campaign despite starting off one-dimensionally, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar trajectory for Nolte.
It should be interesting to learn how Tony Bennett deals with this talented section of the rotation. Based on the roster, Nolte could see the majority of his time playing the 4. Here, he'd split minutes in the front-court with Akil Mitchell, Darion Atkins, and Mike Tobey. The 2 and 3 spots, which Bennett often use interchangeably, will feature Nolte along with Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Anderson, and Paul Jesperson. The relative depth at the wing spot could lead to Bennett going small and counting on Nolte's ability to stretch defenses.
You can get an idea for how Nolte plays in the video below. You'll notice that he can shoot the rock and, just importantly, create space off the dribble to get his shot off. He also has some nice drives to the basket that will hopefully translate to the college game sooner rather than later. You can get a feel for Evan Nolte, the human being, in the second video, an interview with Whitey Reid at the NBA Top 100 Camp at JPJ last summer.