If I had to do it all over again and knew that Lone Peak was gonna win all those championships and I could've been a part of it, or Layton was going to win it and I could've gone to Layton, I would still come to Davis 10 out of 10 times. —Jesse Wade
KAYSVILLE — When he was just a boy, only 5 or 6 years old, Jesse Wade walked into the Davis High School gymnasium one day and noticed a banner hanging high up on the gym's south wall.
That banner honored the Darts' Brody Van Brocklin for being named "Mr. Basketball," the award given annually by the Deseret News to the premier prep player in the state.
"I remember walking in the gym, seeing that banner up there and thinking, gosh, I would love to have my name up there and be 'Mr. Basketball' one day," recalled Wade, now a Davis High School senior.
Well, sir, that day has come.
Yes, that little boy grew into a young man who, through countless hours spent in the gym diligently refining his skills, has become one of the finest basketball players and purest shooters this state has ever seen.
And this year, Wade's longtime goal came true when he was named "Mr. Basketball" in the Beehive State for the 2014-15 season.
Wade was excited and yet humble upon learning he'd been given this well-deserved award, becoming the first player from north of Salt Lake City to win it since Van Brocklin did so in 2002.
"I've worked so hard ever since I knew what a basketball was to be able to get this award," he said. "I was really excited when I was told I'd won it because our team fell short of what our obvious goal was — to win the state championship — and I know there are a lot of great players in this state."
True, but none greater than this one.
After all, the 6-foot-1 senior guard not only averaged a state-leading 26.83 points per game, but also showed he was much more than just a shooter: His 3.5 assists per game ranked 10th in the 5A ranks and his 2.7 steals per game was third-best among all 5A players.
Still, when it comes to shooting the ball, Wade is in a class by himself. He hit a slick 60.3 percent (105 of 174) of his 2-point field-goal attempts and, perhaps more impressive, connected on a superb 44.9 percent (101 of 225) from 3-point range — all while facing defensive strategies designed to slow him down. His overall shooting percentages were 51.6 from the field and 85.6 (131 of 153) from the foul line.
This season Wade had 14 games of 25 or more points, including separate box scores of 46 and 44 points and nine other games in which he scored 30 or more. He became the all-time scoring leader in Davis High's 101-year history with 1,367 career points, an average of 19.81 points per game, and also became the school's all-time leader in single-season points (644), career assists (209), career steals (166), career 3-pointers (207) and single-season 3-pointers (his 101 this season is a 5A state record and one shy of the overall state record of 102 set by Tabiona's Levi Gines in 1998).
Wade scored 35 points in the Darts' 5A state tournament semifinal game against Brighton, a heartbreaking 64-62 loss in which he was 12 of 22 from the floor and made 6 of 12 3-pointers.
Not impressed yet?
How about this: In that semifinal battle versus Brighton, Wade was playing with a compressed fracture in his right (shooting) wrist.
Yes, that's right.
This determined, tough-minded young man scored 35 points while PLAYING WITH A BROKEN WRIST! He was wearing a brace to try and support and protect his wrist, which he injured on a drive to the basket in the Darts' quarterfinal victory over Pleasant Grove.
But, in the semifinal game against Brighton, he shed the brace early.
"It was getting sweaty and bothering me, so I got rid of it halfway through the first quarter," said Wade, who played through the pain. "You're in the game and you're in that moment, and you have so much adrenaline that you don't really feel it until you take a hard fall and land on it and it hurts a lot."
In that devastating 5A semifinal defeat, it was Wade who, with his team trailing by two points and time running out, launched a desperation 3-point try that barely missed its mark at the buzzer.
Afterward, he lay facedown on the Dee Events Center court for a couple of minutes, physically and emotionally spent following a gritty performance that came up just short.
"I've always wanted to be the one to take that shot. And that time, it just didn't go in. ... That's just life, I guess," Wade said. "I had worked so hard to win a state championship. That was always my goal growing up, to win a state championship — I wrote about it in my journal — and in that moment, just knowing that it wasn't going to happen, I was just pretty devastated. ... I was pretty bent after that game.
"But then looking back at everywhere that got me, that goal had just kinda fired me up and made me work harder my whole life. It's what made me wake up at 5 in the morning and go shoot. It's what made me do all these things. So in the end, it was a blessing that I had that goal."
Indeed, it was that glorious championship goal that fueled his desire to be the best basketball player he could possibly be.
So, how'd he go about perfecting that incredible shooting stroke?
He'd take "about a thousand shots a day," he said. "It meant waking up early and getting in an hour and a half of work, either here at the school or at my church, and then after-school workouts. You've got practice and then I'd shoot afterwards.
"You can never take a day off," Wade said. "If you've got goals that you want to accomplish, you can't take a day off."
Want more proof of this kid's uncanny shooting ability? How 'bout the night he poured in 46 points in a road victory over Fremont?
In that game, Wade scored 23 points — half of his total — in the first quarter alone, when he was 8 for 8 from the field, including 6 of 6 from 3-point range. He finished the night making 16 for 19 shots from the floor, including 8 of 10 from beyond the arc.
"That was fun," Wade said. "I missed my first shot halfway through the second quarter — I was 9 for 9 at the time — and their fans just went crazy. That was a really funny moment. Fremont's fans were funny both times we played 'em. To me, they were cool. It was funny seeing them go crazy when I missed a shot.
"That was just one of those games where, afterwards, you're just like 'Geez, did that really happen?' After the first quarter, I was like, 'What is going on?'"
Indeed, it was one of those nights — and Wade had plenty of them this season.
He scored 39 points — 23 of them coming in the fourth quarter — to lead the 5A North All-Star squad to a 114-107 victory over the South stars in the state's annual all-star games last weekend.
That served as a final footnote to what's been a superlative prep career.
"It was a great season," Wade said. "I had so much fun with the guys. It was just such a blast to be able to play with the kids I've grown up playing (against). We went 20-4 (one of only two 5A teams to win 20 games), and our game here against Layton was the funnest game I've ever played in. Layton is such a big rival of ours, and there were fans everywhere that night."
Davis captured the Region 1 title over the rival Lancers, but Layton turned back Brighton to claim the 5A state championship.
"The thought of us not getting to the state championship game was tough," Wade said, "but I was happy for Layton. I know the guys on their team and I'm good friends with (Lancers star) Jarriesse (Blackmon), and I was happy for him. He's a great player and a really good kid, so I was happy to see him accomplish that."
Davis High's first-year head coach Chad Sims, whose teams had faced Wade in the past, was delighted to be his coach this season and couldn't say enough good things about him.
"I've coached against him the last couple of years, so it was nice for me to be on this side of the fence," Sims said, "especially for how much progress and work Jesse's put in to become a special player. To be able to coach him has obviously been great.
"Jesse was everything to us this year and I think he did a great job leading our team. He put us in position to be successful, brought us back when he had to, is a great leader in practice and got other guys around him to play and play good."
Sims, a 15-year coaching veteran, including 11 years as a head coach, said he's never had the opportunity to coach a player quite like Wade.
"I haven't coached anybody like Jesse," he said. "It's his work ethic that separates him. I think everyone recognizes that, Jesse included, and his teammates. When people ask them about Jesse, they always say it's his work ethic. He just works harder than everybody else, and he's put in the time.
"Jesse wants to be the best at whatever he does. I've noticed that ever since I've been around him — whether it be practice, games, team-building activities — Jesse's out front being the guy who wants to be the best and be a leader.
"He gave us a chance every game," Sims said. "We're definitely gonna miss him around here. To have him be part of the program has been great."
Wade gives much of the credit for his success as both a player and a person to his family and upbringing. He inherited good genes — his parents, Eric and Amanda Wade, both played college basketball — and Jesse's the oldest of five children.
"My family's awesome," he said. "My younger sister, Olivia, she's a freshman and she's committed to BYU for soccer already. She's amazing. She made the U17 women's national team already. She'll be Ms. Soccer someday — definitely. Yeah, she's amazing. She scored the game-winning goal against Lone Peak last year in the state championship game. I mean, she's a state champ.
"And my parents, they've always just been the best. When we haven't had money, when money hasn't been there, stuff like that, my dad's always given me every opportunity. He's the best dad I could've asked for. I've always had every pair of basketball shoes I wanted, and I would not be anywhere without my mom and dad."
When it came time to decide where he'd play college ball, Wade received interest from all of the in-state schools, as well as Pac-12, Ivy League and Big 10 programs.
But he decided to play at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, as he verbally committed to the 'Zags before his junior season.
"One thing that I had heard college coaches always say was, 'We just want to see how you develop,'" Wade said. "It was always a thing about growing for me. They just wanted to see me grow.
"And in my first conversation with Gonzaga, coach (Donny) Daniels said: 'Tell us about yourself.' And I said, 'Well, I'm about 6-1 and I don't know if I'll grow any more,' and coach Daniels said, 'Perfect. Our starting guards are 5-11 and 6-1, so you fit in perfectly.' And it was just so awesome to finally hear they wanted me for me.
"And it's just a good fit," Wade said. "I love Spokane so much. It's just a great place and their fans are unreal, they travel everywhere and they're such good fans. And just the team, they usually do well with short, white point guards that can shoot the ball. That's just kind of their thing."
Yeah, seems like there was one of them named John Stockton that did pretty well for himself.
"And then their coaching staff, it just felt so right," Wade said. "Coach (Mark) Few and his staff, it just felt right. Everything about it just felt right."
Of course, going to Gonzaga means Wade will be playing someday against BYU, which competes against the 'Zags in the West Coast Conference.
"I'll be excited to play everyone," he said, "but yeah, I will definitely be waiting for that BYU game — definitely."
That BYU game will have to wait a while, though, because Wade — who turns 18 March 31 — is graduating next weekend and will serve an LDS Church mission in Lyon, France. He'll be leaving for the Missionary Training Center on April 29.
"I'm so excited to serve. It's sad to think about leaving Davis early, but it's obviously for a good cause," said Wade, whose family moved to Kaysville from Provo when he was a boy. "I love Davis and the people here, the teachers, the fans and the community and just all the support.
"If I had to do it all over again and knew that Lone Peak was gonna win all those championships and I could've been a part of it, or Layton was going to win it and I could've gone to Layton, I would still come to Davis 10 out of 10 times.
"Davis is an amazing place," he said. "I love Davis High and it's such a great place in all aspects, education and everything else, it's just awesome."
And when it comes to awesome, Jesse Wade, this year's "Mr. Basketball," certainly qualifies, too.
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