Dean Wade was looking forward to some fun in the sun.
Barry Brown just wants a trophy.
If everything goes according to plan, both Kansas State seniors will return from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands with their wishes fulfilled.
“I’m excited to be in the 80-degree weather,” Wade, the Wildcats’ all-Big 12 forward, said of the trip to the tropics for the Paradise Jam, which gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Friday with a first-round game against Eastern Kentucky. “But it’s exciting to get out and go into the tournament, (see) some different teams you don’t play every year and different places.
“We play three games in four days or something, so it’s a basketball player’s dream. No hard practices, (just) scout and play a game.”
Brown, a preseason all-conference selection and K-State’s leading scorer through the first two games, recalled a recent discussion with Wade and fellow senior Kamau Stokes.
“I think it would mean something for all of us,” Brown said of winning the eight-team tournament. “We talked about how me, Kam and Dean had a list of things we’ve never done as seniors with the program, and one was just to win any kind of championship, any kind of tournament.
“This will give us that opportunity to come out and play three games in four days and hopefully come up with a championship.”
The No. 12-ranked Wildcats (2-0) begin that quest against an Eastern Kentucky team (2-1) that would like nothing better than to turn the game into a high-speed chase. The Colonels are coming off a 107-52 victory over Midland, but also gave up a bunch of points in a season-opening 105-77 loss to Marshall.
“You can’t win a championship unless you win on Friday, so you’ve got to win the first one,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “Eastern Kentucky’s up and down (the court).
“They had 130, 140 in their exhibition, had a big win against Chattanooga (81-78) the other day and had a guy (forward Nick Mayo) get 40.”
Contrast that with a second-round matchup against either Penn or Northern Iowa, which are more deliberate. That game will take place at 6:30 p.m. Sunday if the Wildcats win their opener, or at 4 p.m. Saturday if they lose Friday.
The other side of the bracket includes Missouri, Oregon State and Old Dominion. The final round is scheduled for Monday.
The Wildcats are coming off lackluster performances in their first two games, though they played well enough defensively to get past Kennesaw State (56-41) and then Denver on Monday (64-56). Brown had 25 points in the Denver game and Wade 12 points with a career-high 16 rebounds.
“We found a way to win,” Weber said. “Am I satisfied, heck no.
“I hope they’re not. We didn’t finish the (first) half, but we found a way to finish the game.”
The Paradise Jam will force the Wildcats to raise their game and also to adjust on the fly.
“This is good for learning how to prepare: short notice, different styles,” Weber said. “We’re going to play fast pace (Eastern Kentucky), maybe deliberate (Penn or Northern Iowa), so we’ll play a lot of different people and we’ll learn about our guys.”