Dean Wade pretended to be a reporter when he noticed Wesley Iwundu speaking to media on Tuesday.
Wade, a freshman forward, joined the pack and seemed poised to ask his Kansas State teammate a question until the conversation turned to a pass Wade sent to Iwundu for an alley-oop dunk during the Wildcats’ 80-69 victory against No. 1 Oklahoma over the weekend.
“We weren’t so sure Dean could throw that pass,” Iwundu said. “Putting him in that position was probably tough for him, but he proved us wrong.”
Iwundu, a junior swingman, lept high into the air to catch Wade’s pass and flush the ball through the net, finishing a highlight-reel dunk that is sure to be replayed at Bramlage Coliseum when K-State returns to action Wednesday against No. 21 Baylor. The play gave K-State a 38-32 halftime lead and a wave of momentum it rode to victory.
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K-State coach Bruce Weber deserves credit for drawing up the play and calling it at an ideal time, Iwundu said, but Wade was the true star given his limited passing skills. Iwundu jokingly asked if it was his first assist of the season.
“I have never seen that before,” Iwundu said of Wade’s 24th assist.
Wade laughed throughout the exchange. When given the opportunity to defend his passing ability during his own media interview, Wade shook his head.
“It is pretty easy to throw a lob to Wesley,” Wade said. “I have never actually thrown one before in a game. I just threw it up and figured Wesley is so athletic that I can throw it up anywhere near the rim and he is going to go get it. That was my first time throwing one. I didn’t really even know what I was doing.”
Novice alley-oop passer or not, K-State will take more plays like that against the Bears, especially from Wade.
Wade was chosen Big 12 newcomer of the week after scoring 17 points against Oklahoma, but the St. John, Kan., native was stuck in a slump before he made 7 of 11 shots against the Sooners. Weber saw him pressing and losing confidence, so he took him out of the starting lineup. The hope was that Wade would use the demotion as motivation, and he responded.
Weber thought about moving Wade to the bench earlier, as far back as three weeks ago, he said. But when he asked Wade how he felt about a lineup change, Wade said he was too nervous to come off the bench. So Weber backed off. Yet, Wade says he liked opening the game on the bench, because it allowed him to observe and get comfortable with his surroundings before taking the court.
“It was a different kind of game for him,” Iwundu said. “Maybe Coach should bring him off the bench all the time.”
For now, that appears to be the plan. When told Wade seemed relaxed on Tuesday, Weber grinned.
“I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing,” Weber said. “I guess in Dean’s case, it is all right to be loose.”
Weber wants Wade to play with a carefree attitude. He says Wade is the team’s best shooter, and K-State will need him against Baylor’s 2-3 zone. Injured point guard Kamau Stokes led the Wildcats with 20 points when they lost to the Bears in double overtime last month.
Someone will need to fill that void in the rematch. Wade is ready for the challenge. His confidence has reached new heights.
“Yes, definitely, for sure,” Wade said. “The practices all week leading up to that game, I was shooting so much better. Then the game really helped.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett