The perception of the casual sports fan is that college athletes are entitled.
Big man on campus, treated like superstars, spoiled with free gear, travel, easy classes … they have it all given to them.
Don’t count BYU’s Jesse Wade as one of those guys.
The sophomore guard is putting in the hard work this summer, something he said he’s done his whole life, with no expectations or entitlements.
He knows it’s the only way to earn his place in the rotation.
“That’s the way I’ve always approached it,” Wade said. “I’ve never had anything given to me. Growing up, my parents didn’t know anybody to help me get a certain spot on a team. At Davis, we had no ‘ins’ with Coach (Jay) Welk. I was just a sophomore coming in. Same with AAU ball. That’s always been my mentality and that’s how I live my life. I know I have to earn everything. I’ve been blessed with an amazing opportunity, don’t get me wrong, and the people I’ve around have helped me. But I feel like I’ve earned everything I’ve been able to accomplish.”
Wade – who transferred from Gonzaga and redshirted at BYU last season – is now laboring under his third different coaching staff in the past three years.
“I love Coach (Dave) Rose,” Wade said. “I love Quincy (Lewis), Coach (Tim) Lacomb, Lee (Cummard), Garrett (Faucett) … everybody that was here. They are all great guys and a huge part of the reason I wanted to come here.”
But Wade also had a relationship with Mark Pope, who recruited Wade when he was an assistant at BYU and a head coach at Utah Valley, so the transition has been easier.
The “boss” also approved.
“My wife (Jade) loves Coach Pope,” Wade said. “She fell in love with him when we were getting recruited when I was deciding where to transfer, so she’s so happy he got the job.”
Wade attended a guard camp at Gonzaga as a sophomore and committed to Mark Few before his junior season at Davis. As a senior, Wade averaged 26.8 points per game and was named Utah’s Mr. Basketball. He served a church mission to France and returned in 2017, playing 20 games for the Bulldogs as they advanced to the Sweet 16. But his playing time was limited and he felt the need to explore his options.
“Going to Gonzaga was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life,” Wade said. “Going to Spokane and playing for Coach Few was great and I got to play with people who are in the NBA now – Brandon Clarke, Rui Hachimura, Zac Norvell, Johnathan Williams and Josh Perkins. To be able to play with those guys was really cool. I mean, Jonathan Williams was my teammate and the next year he was playing on the same team as LeBron James. I learned a lot at Gonzaga but I’m happy with how everything has turned out.”
Wade admitted that transferring to BYU was difficult but the redshirt year was an important one. Players and coaches complimented his work, commenting that Wade was often the best player on the floor during practice.
“It was nice being able to work on things in practice and get game-like reps on the practice squad,” Wade said. “You can kind of do whatever you want. Outside of basketball, I was getting my life in order after transferring from Gonzaga. That messed everything up for a sec and I had a lot to deal with.”
Having grown up in Utah, Wade has competed against many of teammates in AAU ball but only played with Zac Seljaas, so workouts have been focused on building trust and comradery. Wade suffered a minor knee injury this summer and has been slowly working his way back to full strength as the entire roster gets familiar with the new system.
“Jesse continues to improve,” Cougar assistant coach Nick Robinson said on BYU Sports Nation. “Obviously he shoots the ball extremely well but he’s had limited experience at the Division I level. All of our guys are on edge and rightfully so in an excited and anticipatory way. Many of the roles are still to be determined because we haven’t had full practices in successive days to mix and match guys to see how they fill those roles. Until you get to five-on-five and get kind of whole picture both offensively and defensively, it’s really a challenge to tell where guys are able to fit.”
At the beginning of August, BYU will begin practicing for their foreign tour of Italy. It will give Wade exactly the opportunity he wants to earn his spot on the roster.
“Just making plays, in general, on both the offensive and defensive end, is what I want to do,” he said. “Coach is really big on us just making plays, and that’s something I can bring to the table.”