Heartbreaking as it was for Dean Wade to miss out on his final shot at the NCAA Tournament with a broken foot last March, the former Kansas State basketball standout can at least find solace in his current situation.
The NBA Draft is quickly approaching, and he has high hopes for himself.
"I have definitely put myself in a good position to get drafted," Wade said in an exclusive interview. "Even if it doesn't happen, I'm confident I will get picked up and have the opportunity to play for a summer league team. Whether I get picked or not, my journey isn't over. It's looking very positive for me. My workouts have gone really well. I have put myself in the best possible position."
So much so, that Wade concedes it's possible his final college foot injury might end up helping him in the long run.
Why? His body finally had time to heal. After missing all but eight minutes of the 2018 NCAA Tournament with a different foot injury and then playing through myriad ailments as a senior, he rested.
He spent seven weeks away from the basketball court in a walking boot, then two weeks getting his legs back under him, and then another two more weeks working himself back into basketball shape.
A refreshed body and outlook, combined with a physical that revealed no lingering foot injuries, left him ready to impress NBA scouts.
And that's exactly what he did.
"What happened to me last season was just a freak deal," Wade said. "It sucks that it happened when it happened, but I came out of it a stronger person."
Wade began flexing his muscles by working out for 11 different teams over the past month. He finished up his final audition Tuesday with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He was an afterthought in draft circles when he was on crutches three months ago, but he is on everyone's radar now.
"Dean has a real chance this week," said Austin Walton, Wade's agent. "He is the best shooting big man in the draft."
You won't find Wade on many mock drafts, but most experts list him as a top 100 prospect. He will be a priority add for teams during the draft or immediately after.
"As soon as his medical report came back clean and teams realized there was nothing chronic about his feet everyone started calling," Walton said. "He has some real serious suitors."
So what did Wade show NBA personnel that he didn't already prove in college while twice earning first-team All-Big 12 honors?
Start with athleticism.
"All of them said I was a lot more athletic than they thought I was," Wade said. "That was what I was trying to convey, that I am more athletic than what I showed in college. I had flashes here and there, but everyone was impressed with that. They all knew I could shoot, but they were very impressed with my athleticism and my ability to switch on defense, and my passing. I think that all really surprised them."
Wade is certainly an interesting draft candidate.
At 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds, he has enough size to play at the next level. He can also shoot the ball well enough to play in the NBA. Wade was K-State's best shooter as an upperclassman, and the Wildcats leaned on him when he was a healthy. His best numbers came as a junior when he made 44% of his 3-pointers and averaged 16.2 points. Those statistics slipped a tad last season, but he was still mighty productive.
His game went to a higher level during NBA workouts, though.
"It's been amazing to play totally healthy and confident again," Wade said. "I'm no worrying about injuries or anything like that. I'm just playing."
Wade doesn't have any more work to be done before the draft. Nor does he have big plans for Thursday.
He says he will watch the NBA draft with his parents in his hometown of St. John.
The last few months have felt like a long journey, but he's ready for whatever is next.
Barry Brown also in the NBA Draft mix
Wade isn't the only former K-State basketball player with NBA draft aspirations this week.
Barry Brown also has an outside shot of hearing his name called, and if that doesn't happen odds are high he will sign with someone as an undrafted free agent on Thursday.
Walton, who also represents Brown, said the 6-3 guard has worked out for eight NBA teams. He finished up his auditions Monday with the Detroit Pistons.