For a player who has often stood taller than his peers on the hardwood, Dean Wade hasn’t often been a double-digit rebounder.
In his first two seasons as a starter at Kansas State, the 6-foot-10 Wade has reached at least 10 boards in a game just once, two seasons ago when he pulled down 13 against Missouri in his fourth college game.
Wade has averaged 4.8 rebounds for his Wildcats career after grabbing 8.4 per game during his career at St. John High.
He’s the first to tell you that it’s time to play bigger. Wade didn’t need coach Bruce Weber to tell him that, but he did anyway.
“When he says we need to rebound, I take that as a personal challenge,” Wade said. “Bigs are supposed to rebound. It’s going to be my main focus this season.”
Not that Wade hasn’t delivered in other ways. He’s been dependable and consistent, his scoring average topping nine points each season. Wade raised his shooting percentages to 40.2 from beyond the arc and 49.6 percent on all shots last season.
He saved his best scoring games for rival Kansas — two of his three 20-point games last season came against the Jayhawks.
Huge for a small-town Kansan.
But for the Wildcats to fulfill their ambition and to return to the NCAA Tournament, they have to find the rebounds lost upon the departure of Wesley Iwundu and D.J. Johnson, who combined for 13 boards last season.
The early signs are positive.
“He’s taken a nice step,” Weber said. “He’s been a much more dominating factor in practice, which we want. Now, can he do it for 30-something games a year?”
In last weekend’s exhibition victory over Missouri State, Wade led K-State with seven rebounds in 22 minutes. Over the 28 minutes Wade averaged last year, it would have been nine boards. Over 30 minutes, that works out to 9.5 rebounds, which would have ranked him third in the Big 12 last season.
“Those would be pretty good numbers,” Weber said. “I think he’s capable of it now. The strength, his conditioning, he’s more explosive. He’s a good player, and we’re going to need him to do a lot.”
Weber said confidence can be an issue with Wade, not just with rebounding. So last year Weber showed Wade a Kansas State individual statistics sheet with the names covered.
Weber showed Wade the paper and asked him, if he was the coach, who should be encouraged to take more shots. The same player was shooting 52 percent on two-pointers and 42 percent on threes, and Wade pointed to that line
It was him.
“I told him, ‘You might want to take that advice and shoot the basketball,’” Weber said.
Now the directive is rebounding, and Wade is stoked at the prospect of improving this part of his game without surrendering other contributions. For instance, he’s too good a shooter not take his game outside. But that shouldn’t prevent him from crashing the boards.
“There were times last year when I wasn’t in the lane or close enough to the basket, and I wouldn’t go in there and battle because the percentage chance of me getting a rebound from the outside wasn’t high,” Wade said. “That won’t be the case this year.
“This year, I’m going in every time and think I’m going to get every rebound.”