From ordinary to extraordinary — Gonzaga transfer Jesse Wade’s basketball success


Jesse Wade said he remembers playing basketball on his Little Tikes hoop as a child. As one of five children in the household, Wade’s passion for sports derived from his parents, Eric and Amanda Wade, former collegiate basketball players themselves.

The 6-foot-1 guard from Kaysville, Utah, has various distinctions and honors that have been allotted to his name, including being named the 2015 No. 1 basketball recruit in Utah and the 2015 Deseret News Mr. Basketball.

While Wade now has various awards and accolades that deem him an impressive player, he said it was a low point in his basketball career — a shattering cut from a Utah state competition team — that increased his work ethic and catalyzed his improvement. This enhanced vision ultimately lead to Wade’s success as a basketball player.

Wade said he had little access to financial support growing up and was shorter than most male athletes on the basketball court. 

“I think people have always kind of counted me out in basketball,” Wade said. “Nothing’s ever really been given to me, so I’ve just worked extremely hard.”

While reality may have been out of his favor, Wade said he sacrificed countless hours of sleep and free time to be on the court. His daily routine revolved around playing the game he loved, even this didn’t seem to be enough: Wade said he needed to increase his internal motivation.

In 2012, Wade’s limits would be pushed as he was dropped from his first-ever dream team.   

Wade was a sophomore at Davis High School when he decided to try-out for the Utah state competition team. As a team that is highly-acclaimed for choosing the best players throughout the state, Wade was upset when he learned he would not be participating with the other players.

Instead of letting it affect him negatively, Wade used the rejection as a form of motivation to enhance his game, rather than to detract from it.

“I had a choice to either be okay with not being really one of the best — just being average — or working harder than I was,” Wade said. “So then I just worked insanely hard over the next three years.”

Jay Welk, Wade’s basketball coach at Davis High School, said Wade was always driven to prove that he should have been picked for the competition team. While Wade may not have had a height advantage over his opponents, Welk said he looked to obtain an impressive skill set that would make him a valuable asset on any team.

No matter the cause of doubt in his performance, Welk said Wade was always driven to prove them wrong.

Wade’s high school performance documented this desire as he proved to be the top shooter for his team during his sophomore and junior years. During his senior year, Wade increased each of his average stats, resulting in 26.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game.

While he dreamed of wearing BYU blue, Wade’s unforeseen success brought him to the attention of Gonzaga, a prestigious basketball university — an offer he couldn’t decline.

“Gonzaga just doesn’t commit players,” Welk said. “For him to be committed to Gonzaga University was a pretty big deal.”

As a freshman at Gonzaga in 2017-18, Wade played 20 games but soon decided to transfer to his original pick, BYU. 

While he had enjoyed his time at the highly-ranked university, Wade said he felt their style of play had started to change and that their needs were no longer in line with what he could offer them.

Shortly after his freshman year of college, Wade commenced plans to make the transfer. After arriving at BYU, Wade redshirted during the 2018-19 basketball season.

Although Wade thought he would be suiting up for the upcoming 2019-20 season, he received a minor setback as he underwent surgery on his knee earlier this October and will be out while he recovers. 

“I think Jesse is a really talented player. He can really shoot the ball,” BYU men’s basketball head coach Mark Pope said. “I think he’s pretty heady. And he’s got a little bit of toughness to him.”

While he will be an asset to the team when he is cleared to play, Pope said the pain plaguing his knee has been an obstacle for almost 11 months. 

When the physical setback mends, Cougar fans should look forward to seeing Wade on the court. As Pope said, “He’s going to really, really help us.”

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