Dean Wade, the kid from Kansas, helping Cavs reach new level of success

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dean Wade shoots the ball. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dean Wade shoots the ball. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

St. John, Kansas is about a thousand miles from Cleveland. It is, as you might imagine, a very small town, with a population just over 1,300 people, located pretty match smack dab in the middle of Kansas. Basketball means everything to many Kansas communities across the high plains, so when a local small-town kid makes it to the NBA it means a lot.

The Cleveland Cavaliers now have one of those kids by the name of Dean Wade. Having been “Mr. Kansas Basketball” in his high school career, Wade had some lofty expectations thrown his direction but now getting to be an NBA starter for the Cavaliers as of late is some real icing on the cake, particularly for a player who was previously on a two-way deal last season.

Wade, the kid from Kansas, has been making a difference for the Cavs.

With Wade in the starting lineup more often, he’s helping contribute on both ends of the floor. Though the Cavs aren’t winning every game with Wade as a starter, they seem to be a better team when he’s out on the court for meaningful stretches.

In their latest victory at the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night, in what was a 103-90 W, Wade got the start again and had six points and a big eight rebounds.

I lived out in Kansas for many years and had chances to follow Wade’s early career when he was growing up in St. John and then later attended Kansas State. My own daughter played basketball as well, during that same time frame, so having the small-town St. John basketball teams playing at the same basketball tournaments was not uncommon to see.

Basketball, in general, is like religion in many small towns in Kansas. Imagine the movie “Hoosiers,” and the character Jimmy Chitwood hitting that last-second shot to win the Indiana state championship. Well that’s what Wade meant to St. John-Hudson High School.

St. John-Hudson won three state basketball titles between 2013-2015 while Wade dominated play.

When Wade went off to Kansas State that same success followed. Kansas State went to the NCAA tournament three years in a row between 2017-19.

Now, as a member of the Cavaliers, Wade is starting to bring that same success to them. He’s not exactly lighting it up in the box score, but he often does the little things that just make these Cavaliers better.

His high points contribution was 21 the other night against the New Orleans Pelicans, and he made things happen in other ways as well. That aided Cleveland, who lost narrowly, but did not have Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Larry Nance Jr. and Jarrett Allen in that one.

Thankfully, Garland, Nance and Allen, the latter of whom were out in a recent stretch before Wednesday’s W, are back, though.

Albeit circling back, Wade’s averaging 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds, and has hit 37.6 percent from three-point range. But what also stands out is Wade’s tenacious defense and extra efforts while on the court.

You often see Wade going after a loose ball and trying to keep a possession alive with an extra lunge to the basketball. His ability to run the floor, be an effective trailer/transition player, and make an impact by getting back quickly defensively, are also things to note.

Those little things that Wade displays on the court now were born on the small and dusty gym floors he’d played on as a kid in Kansas. When I was watching those St. John travel basketball teams then it was always a treat because they played fundamental hoops. To see one of those youngsters from those teams now play for the Cleveland Cavaliers is a real treat.

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As those die-hard basketball fans of the small town of St. John are thrilled to see Wade’s success, so are the Cavs who now have Wade in the mix and is helping them reach new heights!