Of all the players on the Virginia roster, none may inspire stronger feelings than Evan Nolte. His mercurial career has shown flashes of brilliance, long stretches of struggle, and virtually every level of play in between.
Nolte arrived on Grounds as a very highly touted recruit. As a four-year starter at Milton High School, Nolte won two state championships, was the Class 5A player of the year as a senior, and was an ESPN All-American honorable mention as well as a McDonald's All-American nominee. He was a four-star, top-100 recruit by ESPN, Rivals, and 247Sports, and chose Virginia over offers from Ohio State, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Wake Forest, among others.
In three years so far, Nolte has played in all but seven games. He jumped into action as a freshman but saw his minutes drop significantly his second year. As other talented players have surged into the Virginia program, Nolte seems to have taken a bit of a back seat. His playing time wasn't helped by the mind-boggling slump he found himself in: Despite being hailed as a sharp-shooting perimeter threat, Nolte shot only 27 percent from deep in 2014-15.
When Justin Anderson went down last year, Nolte was the fill-in. The increased playing time seemed to do Nolte well. From the Louisville game February 7th through the ACC semifinals loss to North Carolina, Nolte had a KenPom ORtg above 100 in 7 of Virginia's 10 games.
Nolte is going to have to improve his shooting to see much of the floor in his senior season. With Anderson's long-range shooting off to the NBA, the Hoos need someone who can stretch the defense. If Nolte can do that, he may slip into the starting role--or at least a prominent role in the rotation--at small forward. Of course, Nolte's mere presence seems to be a boost to the Cavaliers' chances even if he isn't hitting the deep balls.
Of course no discussion of Evan Nolte is complete without mentioning the 2014-15 season's most meme-able moment: #FlyNolteFly
While #NolteFace has made the rounds on #UVaTwitter almost since Evan's arrival, his hustle play against VCU damn near broke the Virginia interwebs. We'll sign off this preview with some of the best memes, curated at The Odyssey Online.