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Gonzaga freshman Jesse Wade no stranger to gym, hard work

Jesse Wade, pictured during action at the 2014 Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, Calif., has turned heads on the court for years. (JOHN CORDES / Associated Press)
Jesse Wade, pictured during action at the 2014 Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, Calif., has turned heads on the court for years. (JOHN CORDES / Associated Press)

Several hours had passed since Jesse Wade’s emotional reunion with family and friends following his April return from his LDS mission.

Wade was all smiles while relatives shed tears as he shared long embraces with his parents, younger brother, three younger sisters and others who welcomed him home at the Salt Lake City airport.

Soon, it was time for Wade to visit his second home.

“It took me a few hours and I was back in the gym,” Wade said.

Four seasons have come and gone since Wade committed to Gonzaga in October, 2013. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. ran the Zags’ backcourt in 2013-14 and Gonzaga has since made trips to the Elite Eight and the NCAA title game.

Meanwhile, Wade finished up his prep career at Davis High in Kaysville, Utah, earning state player of the year honors in 2015, and then completed his two-year mission in France.

Roughly five weeks after coming home, Wade was on the move again, taking courses at Gonzaga and posting a picture of the McCarthey Athletic Center on Twitter with the hashtag homesweethome.

It’s not hyperbole.

“He comes in every day ready to go and puts his time in, that’s for sure,” junior point guard Josh Perkins said. “Every time I go in the morning, he’s there. At night, he’s there.”

Wade’s work ethic is well known in Utah.

“You have to kick Jesse out of the gym. He just works so hard, always trying to get better,” said Chad Sims, Wade’s coach for his senior season at Davis. “He was back home for the July 4th holiday and was going to come over to the gym but it is being refinished.”

Wade’s schedule in France didn’t allow much time to train or play basketball.

“I think I lost more conditioning-wise than basketball,” he said. “When I got back my shot was a little rusty at the beginning but now it feels good. It feels great. I’m definitely working on my body and conditioning the most.”

The Zags will have a different look in the backcourt after losing WCC player of the year Nigel Williams-Goss and wing Jordan Mathews from last year’s 37-2 team that advanced to the NCAA championship game. Perkins figures to be the starting point guard while rising senior Silas Melson can play shooting guard, wing and step in at point in a pinch.

Redshirt freshman Zach Norvell, incoming freshman Corey Kispert, 6-foot-6 junior Jeremy Jones and sophomore Rui Hachimura are options at the wing. The 6-8 Hachimura also figures to see time at power forward.

Wade and incoming freshman guard Joel Ayayi could be in the mix for minutes at any of the guard positions. Wade played point his senior season and put up 26.8 points per game while draining 45 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Sims coached at Northridge High when Wade was an underclassman at Davis. The defensive game plan was to chase Wade off the 3-point line and force him make plays off the dribble. Wade took that into account and expanded his game prior to his senior season.

“One game we were playing a league opponent and everyone knew who he was and tried to take him out of his game,” Sims said. “He went 16 of 19 and had 44 points. Once he developed driving to the basket and finishing at the rim, you had to pick your poison.”

Wade wasn’t the fastest player but he was quick and had some explosiveness, Sims said. Wade has always been confident in his abilities.

“More than once, during a timeout or in a huddle, he told me, ‘I’ve taken this shot 10,000 times, I know I’m going to make it,’ ” Sims recalled. “And more times than not he did make it.”

Wade is leaning on Perkins and Melson, the Zags’ most experienced players.

“I just ask them questions: ‘How to come off a pick-and-roll, what to look for, how is the defender going to play it?’ ” said Wade, whose sister, Olivia, has committed to BYU soccer.

Wade followed Gonzaga’s magical 2017 season through video clips and updates from family and friends.

“I know that pressure is definitely a privilege and I’m grateful to come into a situation like this,” he said. “It’s a huge blessing. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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