The first eight games of Kansas State’s basketball season have felt like a crash course in sports psychology for Dean Wade.
The sophomore forward began the year focused on one thing: scoring. He made 14 of his first 29 shots and went scoreless in the Wildcats’ biggest nonconference game, a 69-68 loss to Maryland.
“I wasn’t playing very good,” Wade said Thursday.
Then he shifted his focus to other areas: defense, rebounding, and sharing the basketball. Suddenly, he made 12 of his next 18 shots and became a scoring factor. Last time out, he did a little bit of everything and led K-State to a 74-55 victory against Prairie View A&M with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
His scoring is on the rise, and so is his overall game heading into Saturday’s Kansas City game against Washington State.
“I have been playing better,” Wade said, “because I have just been focused on rebounding and playing hard. That is where my focus will be at the rest of the year. I think it will benefit me and help me play really well the rest of the year.”
K-State needs Wade to build off his new mindset and recent play. He was expected to push Barry Brown and Wesley Iwundu as the team’s top scorer, but, so far, he is the only starter averaging less than 10 points. His 8.8 points rank sixth.
Wade has disappeared at various times, prompting K-State coach Bruce Weber to defend his slow start.
But he’s hopeful those days are in the past now that Wade is focused in the right things.
“That’s just the way the basketball gods work,” Weber said. “If you concentrate on things like playing hard, rebounding, guarding people, things like that, it seems like scoring then comes. He has gotten some put backs and deflections, he went up and got a dunk the other day. Instead of worrying, ‘Gosh, I didn’t make this shot or that shot,’ he has got his attention on those things. He made a couple threes the other night. You hope that his confidence will build and build.”
Wade has been on a mini hot streak since his no-show against Maryland.
He had eight points, eight rebounds and three assists in a win over Green Bay. Then he had 13 points, five rebounds and four assists in a victory at Saint Louis.
“He is just doing the little things,” Iwundu, a senior wing, said. “Once you start doing the little things then every other part of your game starts coming on. As you can see, those little things can be a confidence booster. We are going to need Dean this season ... It is nice to see him finally start doing some of the things he is capable of.”
That all started with a shift in focus.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett