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Gonzaga’s Jesse Wade receives warm welcome in Provo

Gonzaga guard Jesse Wade and Howard guard Justin Cotten chase a loose ball in a Nov. 14 game. (YOUNG KWAK / Associated Press)
Gonzaga guard Jesse Wade and Howard guard Justin Cotten chase a loose ball in a Nov. 14 game. (YOUNG KWAK / Associated Press)

PROVO, Utah – Gonzaga freshman guard Jesse Wade’s support crew made some noise Saturday among the 18,987 packed inside BYU’s Marriott Center.

Wade, a product of nearby Davis High in Kaysville, Utah, estimated about 100 relatives and friends were in attendance. A group of Wade’s buddies in the BYU student section chanted his name when he entered the game in the first half.

“I heard them, yeah, they’re awesome,” said Wade, following the Zags’ 79-65 victory. “It was really cool to be able to play in front of a bunch of friends and family, and against a bunch of my friends.”

Wade had played in just one of the previous eight games, but coach Mark Few inserted him with 11:43 left in the first half and Gonzaga holding a 23-10 lead. Wade misfired on an open 3-pointer and finished with one rebound in four minutes.

“He’s just a great kid,” Few said. “He comes into a tough spot, he hasn’t played basketball for a while (after serving a two-year LDS mission). We’ve got some seniors at the guard spot and some talented guys in front of him. He’s still kind of figuring it out but he’s a wonderful guy, wonderful teammate, the highest character.”

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Wade was a standout, do-everything guard at Davis High, which is about an hour drive from BYU’s campus.

Wade is playing limited minutes, something Silas Melson experienced as a true freshman when a planned redshirt season was wiped out following Josh Perkins’ broken jaw. Melson’s role grew over his first three years and he became a full-time starter this season.

Forward Rui Hachimura has developed into an important member of the rotation after spending last season playing primarily in blowout wins.

“I’ve got things I have to get better on, and I’m working on them,” said Wade, whose younger sister, Olivia, has signed to play soccer for BYU. “I’m just trying to learn from the great guys in front of me, not getting too discouraged and eat up everything.

“I just talk to them (players who have been in his situation) and stay positive, really take this as a learning experience and just get better.”

In addition to rust from a near two-year layoff from basketball, Wade’s impact has been slowed by shoulder subluxation issues. He’s missed numerous practices.

“I’m dealing with it,” Wade said. Asked if it might require postseason surgery, he said, “We’ll see at the end of the year what happens.”

Wade said his role at Gonzaga is different than the one he had in high school. The four-star recruit averaged 26.8 points and made 45 percent of his 3-pointers as a senior.

“I just have to be a more solid point guard,” Wade said.

Wade has played 94 minutes in 17 appearances. He hit three 3-pointers in a 106-69 rout over Howard in mid November.

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