HAMPTON ——They aren't wishing away their youth, but University of Virginia basketball commitments Evan Nolte and Mike Tobey wouldn't mind starting their college experiences tomorrow.
Both got a jump on the next phase of their athletic and academic careers by committing to coach Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers before the conclusion of their junior years in high school.
Tobey and Nolte are the first commitments in Virginia's 2012 recruiting class. Both demonstrated qualities that figure to benefit the program, playing for their respective AAU travel teams at this weekend's annual Boo Williams Nike Invitational.
Tobey is a 6-foot-11, 220-pound post player from Monroe, N.Y., near West Point, who attends the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. He plays travel ball for the Bronx-based Gauchos and routinely competes in the Big Apple, giving his game a city edge that many suburban kids don't possess.
Nolte is a 6-8, 200-pound wing from Alpharetta, Ga., with perimeter skills and shooting range and the kind of all-court game that defies pigeonholing based on his size.
His high school in suburban Atlanta, Milton, attracts area hoops talent and is on the national map. Milton has played for the last three Georgia AAAA state titles and last season had a half-dozen Division I prospects and signees.
"The way I play," Nolte said, "I don't have to score to help my team. I feel like I'm different than a lot of other players."
Playing for the Georgia-based Southern Kings AAU team, in a game Saturday morning, Nolte hit a couple of in-rhythm 3-pointers and showed some quickness and ball-handling ability for his size. As a wing in their zone defense, his length is a deterrent to perimeter shooters and helps him recover against shorter, quicker players.
Tobey didn't score much in the Gauchos' early game Saturday -- it's often difficult to showcase post players in summer ball, because games are up-and-down and dominated by guard play -- but he had 13 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. He also challenged shots, used both hands on offense and clearly didn't mind contact.
"I've got to get stronger," Tobey said, "and just continue to work on all areas of my game. You can always get better."
Tobey's dad, Ken, was a 6-5 rebounder and banger who grew up in north Jersey and played small-college basketball. Once Mike began to grow and show promise, Ken took him into New York to expose him to city ball. He's played in the city since seventh grade and is in his third year with the Gauchos.
"I feel like I'm 10 times a better ballplayer than I would have been if I had stayed home," Tobey said.
Nolte's high school and AAU experiences have helped him acclimate to playing with talent and to accept roles more easily than some players — another selling point for Virginia.
"I love their system and the way they play," Nolte said. "The system that they run is similar to something that me and my family feel that I can play in and is best for me.
"I want to go into college and not be promised playing time or anything like that, but try to earn it. I'm not one of those guys who's like, if I'm coming here, you've got to let me play."
Virginia's future teammates also share a distaste for the hard-sell recruiting process, which in part led to their decisions to commit early.
Tobey committed to the Cavaliers last Christmas, only two months after turning 16. He would have committed during the Thanksgiving holidays, but Ken made him wait in order to give it more thought.
He had scholarship offers from Pitt, Xavier, Northwestern, Miami and Siena, and visited Maryland, which had made overtures about offering, just before he committed to Virginia.
"I wasn't crazy about it," Tobey said of the recruiting scramble. "The whole process, it was just crazy. I felt like if I waited, it would affect my game. I'd rather just play and work on my game."
Nolte committed 10 days ago. He had a handful of offers, but the decision came down to Virginia and the University of Georgia, where his older brother, Connor, plays. He sifted through more letters and returned more phone calls than he cared to.
"I want to have a life outside of basketball, too," he said. "There are times when I just want to get away from it, but at times with the whole process it was just hard. You'd get all these phone calls and you had to call them back because you didn't want them to think you weren't interested."
On the contrary, the Cavaliers have two prospects waiting in the wings who are extremely interested.