MANHATTAN — For Dean Wade, confidence equals consistency.
Both qualities had a rise-and-fall curve like the stock market Wade’s first two seasons at Kansas State, but now the 6-foot-10 junior is getting on a steady line.
“It’s high,” Wade said of his confidence level. “I’m not letting little things bother me like I did my freshman and sophomore years. It’s helped me be more consistent. Last year I had crazy ups and downs and my confidence was in the trash.
“I’m just being aggressive. It all starts with your mindset. Your body will follow your mind. The Big 12 is here and you’re competing hard and I have to keep my focus on playing hard. I’ve been through the fire before and lost confidence before and I know how not to lose it now.”
Wade is becoming the go-to guy, a role that will grow even more vital with point guard Kamau Stokes out indefinitely with a foot injury for the Wildcats (11-4, 1-2 Big 12), who play Oklahoma State (11-4, 1-2) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Wade averages 14.9 points and 6.7 rebounds, scoring in double figures in 11 of 15 games with a career-high 34 at Iowa State. The biggest change in his game is ability and willingness to work inside the lane.
“I think that’s where he’s made his most improvement,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “He’s going in the paint, and he feels good about it. When he went in his freshman and sophomore year he went because we made him. Now he actually has a little confidence that he can score in there, wheel-and-deal with the up-and-unders and spin moves. He put a lot of time in and the coaches have done a good job with him and he’s much more confident in there.
“If you get rebounds, it gives you a chance to get a putback here or there. Then you get some points in the paint, it definitely helps. D.J. (Johnson) was in the paint last year a lot and now Dean is getting more of an opportunity. He also goes from outside to in by driving and making a post move.”
Wade has a .606 field goal percentage this season — up from .434 as a freshman and .496 last year — while shooting .438 from 3-point range, a bump from .292 and .402 his first two seasons. He worked hard on post moves in the offseason with the coaching staff and former Wildcat players.
“Coach (Chris) Lowery and coach (Brad) Korn and Shane Southwell (graduate student manager) help me a lot, and so do the older guys who come back in the summer,” he said. “Curtis Kelly and Thomas (Gipson) come back and we play one-on-one a lot and that gives me confidence going up against great players like them who are big, strong guys.
“I’m getting a little more comfortable. I’m a lot more confident in myself this year down there. I’m stronger and more athletic so I feel like I can, not bully people, but get where I want to be on the floor easier. Being stronger down there helps you get position. You’ve got your spots where you want to be on the court, especially down there, and once you get there a few times it opens up everything.”
Wade averages 28.9 minutes a game but played only 24 in last Saturday’s 74-58 loss at Texas Tech when he found himself in foul trouble, fouling out with two minutes remaining. It was the second disqualification this season (Vanderbilt), another area he has targeted for improvement.
“My freshman year I think I was just happy to be out there,” he said. “This year, I want to make a statement and playing more minutes in the Big 12 is big for me. Playing without fouling is huge because my freshman year I averaged like a foul every two minutes.
“I think it’s positioning, being in position early. My freshman year I didn’t know exactly where to be all the time and that got me in trouble.”
It’s all part of the maturation and development process that is taking off in Year 3 for Wade.
“He’s stronger, he’s better conditioned,” Weber said. “For him to go 37-38 minutes, the snot and drool his freshman and sophomore year was coming out and he would have been white-faced. At Iowa State he said to give him one breather, but for the most part he can fight through that.
“The other thing is he plays very good defense. He knows what’s going on because he’s been through it. He’s physical and moves his feet so he’s been good at that end, also.”