Dean Wade may have gone undrafted, but that doesn’t mean Kansas State fans won’t see the former Wildcat star in the NBA this upcoming season.
It was announced Tuesday that Wade, who is from St. John, Kan., and who just completed a standout four-year career at K-State, officially signed a two-way contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. NBA teams are only allowed two per team and the contract allows Wade to split time between the Cavs’ G-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, and spend up to 45 days with the NBA team.
The Eagle spoke with Wade in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League the day after his contract was officially announced. Wade is averaging 9.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals across three games in the summer league.
“It is very exciting, and it’s just a great opportunity,” Wade told the Eagle. “I’m very thankful and blessed to have them think that highly of me. I just got to go out there and work hard every day now and get better every day. It’s a good feeling that they put their trust in me.”
The Cavaliers, which finished with the second-fewest wins in the NBA last season at 19-63, are beginning a rebuilding phase under first-year coach John Beilein, whom they hired away from the University of Michigan. The Cavaliers are hoping the same modernized, small-ball motion offense that made Beilein a winner in college will translate to the NBA.
Beilein’s offense requires big men who can shoot, dribble and pass — a description that perfectly fits the game of Wade, a 6-foot-10, 228-pound forward. Over his final three seasons at K-State, Wade shot 42 percent from the perimeter on 243 attempts. He also is the only player in K-State history to finish his career with at least 1,000 points, 100 three-pointers, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals.
“He has a big-time jump shot and is a really good passer,” Beilein told the Eagle. “What I would like to see develop right now is a back-to-the-basket game a little bit more. He had a great college coach in Bruce Weber, so I’m looking forward to watching him grow. He’s got something that every team needs in that he can really shoot the ball.”
That versatility was on full display in Wade’s second game in Vegas, an 82-75 victory for the Cavs over the Bulls last Friday. Wade scored 11 points, including two three-pointers, and added six rebounds, two assists and two steals in 27 minutes where he posted a game-high plus-20 on the court.
“It felt good, but to be a professional basketball player you’ve got to do that consistently,” Wade said. “I feel like I can stretch the floor and shoot it. I can switch on screens and stay in front of people. I feel like I can fit in this league very well.”
Wade, whose career was plagued by foot injuries while at K-State, is being closely monitored by the Cavaliers and being held out on the back end of short-rest games. After playing three games in Las Vegas and five games total for the Cavs’ summer league team, Cleveland assistant coach Antonio Lang, who is coaching the summer league team, has a positive evaluation of Wade.
“Dean is a guy who can post up, he can space, he can roll, he can pass,” Lang told the Eagle. “The thing with him is he has to be a little bit more vocal defensively. He’s a quiet young man, but he’s just got to keep talking and keep playing. He really hasn’t been able to play a lot with his injuries, so we just got to get him in a rhythm. We’re really excited about having him.”
Making the summer league experience even more special for Wade is that he’s not the only Wildcat in Las Vegas. Barry Brown, who starred alongside Wade at K-State for all four years, is playing with the Minnesota Timberwolves on one of only two 4-0 teams in Vegas.
“This experience is definitely going to help me,” Brown told the Eagle. “I’m here to compete with and against guys who are going through the same process as me. Everyone is here to showcase what they can do night-in and night-out on both ends of the floor. I want to show my playmaking ability and my ability to play (point guard) and defend at the highest level. But most importantly, I want to win.”
Not only is Brown playing for an undefeated team, but he’s also receiving a decent amount of playing time for a player who doesn’t yet have an official tie to the team. Brown is playing 15 minutes per game in Las Vegas, averaging 7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1 steal per game.
Wade and Brown still keep in close contact and when one isn’t playing, they try to make it to the gym to watch the other. Brown was ecstatic for his former teammate when he signed his two-way contract, while Wade is lobbying for the Timberwolves to do the same for Brown.
“I’m very happy for him and he’s playing well right now for the Timberwolves,” Wade said. “I’m hoping they sign him. He deserves it with the way he works. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to play at the same time and having Barry here with me is amazing. I talked to him all the time. It’s a little different with him not being on the same team, but it’s exciting to see him have success.”
Only months removed from college, Wade says K-State is still a huge part of his life. He still talks with his former teammates, and he has appreciated the ongoing support from Wildcat fans in person and through social media.
Even in Las Vegas, Wade has felt the K-State love when Pat Bosco, who recently retired after decades of serving as K-State’s vice president for student life, showed up to one of his games.
“K-State fans are the best, man,” Wade said. “(Bosco) was at one of our games and he was yelling at me in warm-ups. I’m like, ‘Man, who is yelling at me?’ I look over and he was sitting right there. It’s awesome. K-State is a big family. I’m so blessed and thankful to have those guys on my side.”