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Who Is Better? Nate Wolters or Ben Woodside

by Dan Gunderson

Last night, South Dakota State University guard Nate Wolters was drafted first by the Washington Wizards, then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and finally landed in Milwaukee with the Bucks. He was drafted in the second round, 38th overall and lands on a roster with a star in the making point guard Brandon Jennings.

For me, it brings forward a question that I believe is a tough one to answer. Who was the better college basketball player; Nate Wolters or North Dakota State University’s Ben Woodside? The reason this is tough to answer is because the two guards never shared the floor together.

Woodside’s collegiate career ran from 2005-09 while Wolters career spanned 2009-13. The discussion, for me, is an interesting one regardless because of the impact they had not only on their team, but the attention each individual brought to the Summit League during their playing time.

For those that would argue Wolters was the better player, they will go to the impact Wolters had on his teammates. Wolters did not play on a team as talented as the one Woodside had and still the Jackrabbits qualified for the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years.

They will also say that Wolters offensive game was much more evolved than Woodside’s. Wolters was a better ball handler, therefore, much less likely to turn the ball over allowing himself to get either open or into the lane to create open shots for his teammates.

Wolters was also a better rebounder, although that may had more to do with the fact he is nearly 6’5” instead of Woodside’s 5’11” stature. Regardless, Wolters was an aggressive rebounder when the time called for it.

Wolters had a mid-range game, especially his running floater, which was much better than Woodside’s. Wolter’s holds three all-time records at SDSU for points, assists and free throws made. He is the first Jackrabbit to be drafted into the NBA since Steve Lingenfelter in 1981.

For those that argue Woodside was the better player, they may give out the challenges that Woodside faced through is four years at NDSU. Three years of non-playoff eligibility. Woodside played with four players that went on to play pro ball somewhere. Woodside had one chance to make it to the NCAA tournament and had to do it against a much better Summit League than Wolters did.

He is the all-time leading scorer despite playing every game of his career with the second and seventh all-time leading scorers in Brett Winkelman and Mike Nelson respectively. He is undersized, even for a point guard, and still is NDSU’s all-time leader in free throws made and attempted.

His first step was so explosive that it left nearly anybody who tried to guard him in the dust. You couldn’t just give Woodside more room because he would bury you with the three. Woodside scored 37 points against the University of Kansas in his only NCAA tournament game.

NDSU men’s basketball was second fiddle to the women’s program until Woodside changed all of that. Don’t be shocked that if and when NDSU builds a new basketball arena that some part of it will bear his name.

In the end, these two may fit as 1a and 1b as greatest Summit League players ever. Keith Benson and George Hill are both up for discussion and maybe even Brett Winkelman of NDSU and his career. However, in the end, the conversation will always come back to who do you think was better, Wolters or Woodside? I’ll let you decide.