Former Kansas State forward Dean Wade stands at 6-foot-10 and is considered one of the best sharpshooters at his position in the NBA Draft.
He is coming off his second-consecutive season taking home First-Team All-Big 12. Wade trailed just one player in his conference for win shares per 40 minutes as a junior though he missed time his senior season due to injury. He has shown flashes with an impressive jump shot and has been able to create an offense for himself in isolation, post-ups and off the dribble.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie recently projected Wade as a second-round pick to the Sacramento Kings. The former Kansas State forward caught up with HoopsHype about his dreams of pro basketball.
Tell me a bit about what you’ve been doing to prepare for the 2019 NBA draft.
Dean Wade: Just getting in the gym, working with the trainers, getting in with our strength coach, lifting, and then just flying, going everywhere. Being with different teams, showing what I can do. It’s a really fun process. It’s long and it’s tough, but it’s exciting and fun.
What are some things you learned about the process that may have surprised you?
DW: It’s just a different day, different city kind of thing. It’s kind of crazy. You hear people talk about it all the time, but until you actually go through it and experience it, it’s two different worlds. You’re tired on flights, getting on flights and traveling so much. But you still got to go out and perform in the workouts, so it’s tough. But like I said earlier, it’s fun — you can’t beat it!
What are some things you’ve been able to do that has really helped you to stand out from other prospects who might be fairly similar during the process?
DW: I think a lot of that has to do with my versatility. I’m big, I can shoot, but I can also switch on guards, on screens and just be vocal. Especially for people who play like me, I think I take it to the hole a lot more. That kind of separated me, because I don’t think a lot of teams knew I could take it to the hole and stuff like that. So, I’m just trying to show all aspects of my game and show I’m a well-rounded player.
I heard that you performed well in the Next Sports Pro Day. I assume that means you’re pretty close to one hundred percent healthy if not one hundred percent healthy?
DW: Yeah, I’m 100 percent healthy, I’ve been one hundred percent healthy for a few weeks. Now, I’m just trying to get back into things, being able to play. It’s been a while since I was able to play competitive basketball. I’m just trying to get back into the rhythm of playing, competing and stuff like that. I took a couple of months off from that, really, with my foot injury. But, physically, I’m a hundred percent. Mentally, I’m getting there and getting better every day.
I think that if you’re not the best shooter at your size in the draft, you’ve got to be near the top conversation. As the game has been changing, tell me a little bit about how your game fits into the modern NBA offense.
DW: Right. Well, the NBA has been changing a ton. There are all these smaller lineups, people are more versatile, it’s going to more of a positionless league. A lot of NBA team – three points and layups: that’s all that they are shooting. Being able to step out on the floor and shoot the three effectively and consistently is going to really help me stay in the league and help my team win. Being able to do that and being big, setting screens, it’s going to be tough for defenses just to switch or get back or whatever they’re going to do. I feel I’m a very good passer, too, so if they rotate, I can find the open guy. So my game has just been evolving through this whole process — just find the open guy, stepping into my shots at the three-point line. It’s a little farther back than in college but that really hasn’t been a huge difference for me. So as the NBA game evolves, the players got to evolve too. I define my game by looking for consistent three-point shooting and getting to the hole and just making plays.
I’d love to hear you explain what efficiency means to you and how you’ve become such an efficient finisher when you’re playing.
DW: I think a lot of it comes with your teammates and the chemistry you build with your teammates and the coaching staff. So, a lot of it comes from them. But you have to also not force anything, just play within the flow of the game. Obviously, be aggressive, but don’t be over-aggressive or make bad mistakes. If you’re going to make a mistake every once in a while, that’s fine. But stay to the basics and be fundamental. Pass the ball, get the ball moving. When you start the ball off like that, it usually finds its way back to you for an open shot. So, I mean, it’s just one of those things where you have to learn how to play with your teammates. Just having great teammates and being fundamental, always holding your follow-throughs.
How did you become such an impressive scorer when shooting off-ball screens?
DW: It’s all about your footwork coming off of a screen and also making the right read off of a screen. You’ve just got to take what the defense gives you, and I feel like I’m always confident in my shots. Any time I’m shooting, in my mind, it’s going in. So it gives me a little help confidence-wise to knock down those shots. But I always work on the footwork part of it, and then when the footwork comes towards where the base of your shot starts, that’s the most important part. Get your feet squared, totally squared, and you should be alright.
Walk me through a little bit of the history of your jump shot. Do you have a shooting coach or anything like that? How did you get to have such a good form?
DW: I never had a shooting coach, I never really had a trainer at all, So I’d say mostly just my parents and my high school coach. He coached me a while when I was younger, so my parents always would get me in the gym. Whenever I’d want to get in the gym, they’d let me in. I’d just shoot jump shots, try to get my form perfect. Coach, my dad, my parents, my mom, they helped me at times with getting my form down. I credit those guys for what they taught me. You have a little freedom here and there but I look back to those days and how they taught me to shoot and think it all paid off.
What is your parents’ background in basketball? Were they also players?
DW: My mom played college basketball and volleyball in college; she’s a Hall of Famer at Barton County, the JuCo in Kansas, and then my dad played college football, but he played basketball through high school and was always a really good basketball player as well.
What positions have you played during your career? Where do you kind of feel most comfortable? Playing at the next level both on offense and on defense?
DW: My whole career has really just been a four. I’ve played the three, the four, the five before. I know all those spots. But at the next level, I see myself as more of a three than a four. However, I’ll play whatever a team needs me to play. I think I have the foot speed and quickness to guard a three. I just need to work a little bit on my ball handling, decision-making coming off screens and stuff like that. I can definitely play the four at the next level, too.
Tell me a little about the size advantage you can have as a six-foot-ten small forward.
DW: It’s crazy. You can switch with the four and the five on defense. You’re big enough to be in the passing lanes and help. It’s just extra length on the floor, it kind of feels like the court shrinks up on the offensive teams. On offense, guards are always switching, so they switch. I can roll down to the post, make plays from the post. I’m a willing passer out of the post, so I can always do that. There are lots of advantages to it.
What are some of the highlights you took from playing at Kansas State? And what are some of the things they did to help you get to this next level of competitive basketball?
DW: I have so many great memories at K-State. It’s hard to beat when we beat Oklahoma when they were No. 1 overall my freshman year. That was an unbelievable atmosphere, our fans were going crazy at home. It was a very exciting moment for the basketball program. We weren’t very good that year so that one really just kind of helped us a ton with confidence. But the coaching staff at K-State always pushed me to be the best player I can be. I got to credit them for forcing me out every day, pushing me to my limits, really see what kind of player I actually can be. Mentally, building my confidence up seeing what I can do — my confidence just skyrocketed from there. I always thought I was a great player. But until you go and prove that, then you’re not. So, our coaches helped me a ton with confidence, knocking down shots consistently, they’ve pushed me to be the player I am today.
I’d love to hear a little bit about how life is for you off the court. What are some things you like to do to keep busy?
DW: I grew up in Saint John, Kansas. It’s a small town so most of what I have known outside of sports was hunting and fishing. I do that as much as I can when I go home. I play video games just like any other college kid. I like to relax and watch Game of Thrones and stuff like that. So I’m a normal person, too. That’s how I like to relax. I call my sister whenever I’m going through some stuff, or I call my friends when I’m going through some stuff. I’ve got a lot of people I can lean on when I’m going through tough times. I have got amazing, amazing people behind me, backing me up. I really am blessed with the number of people I have for me.
When it comes to former teammates who’ve played in the NBA like Wesley Iwundu, what advice have they given you about the pre-draft process and about how to make your name in this league?
DW: They said, “Just do what you do; don’t try to do anything that you don’t normally do.” They say: “You’ve been playing basketball for your whole life, pretty much. You know what you’re going to do, and you know what you do well, and you know what you do best, just go out there and be you. Show the teams what you really are” and they say it’s more than just the basketball workout part. It’s pretty important, but the coaching staff watches hundreds of hours of film on what you do. So it’s more just like the way your body, your posture, your attitude, all that kind of stuff on the court. They’re looking at that more than anything.
What’s something you really want teams to know about you throughout this whole process?
DW: I feel like I can play in the league. That’s what I want them to know, really. How confident I am in myself. I know my abilities, I feel like I can play in the league, and play a good role in the league. That’s what I want them to know. That’s about it.
Is there anything else that you think would interesting to share for a story like this – about your background, your story, anything else you think that could help folks get to know you?
DW: I graduated with just 20 people in high school. I don’t know. There’s not much else to it, really.
I want to hear a little bit about what it’s like to come from a background where there are only 20 students in your graduating class, and now you’re looking for NBA dreams – how are you going to prove that you belong?
DW: Right. I grew up in a farming community. The NBA was just a dream. Now it’s within reach. I can almost see it — I just have to keep grinding. I didn’t get a lot of looks coming out of high school. I started playing AAU and that’s where I got all my exposure and looks to college coaches and stuff like that. My parents always taught me hard work beats everything, so as long as I keep working hard, my dream’s within reach. It’s a goal now, not a dream. Just the transition from Saint John to where I am now is an unbelievable journey. And I hope this journey keeps going for a long time.