Wade's longevity at U of M pays on court
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
October 18, 2006
If it seems like Clyde Wade has been around the University of Memphis basketball program for-ev-er, rest assured it hasn't been that long. But even Wade, a fifth-year senior guard, has trouble comprehending the timeline.
"It just seems like I've been here longer than five years," Wade said Tuesday. Let the record show, Wade is only entering his fifth year with the Tigers. But given the life- and career-altering events that have taken place since he stepped on campus, it's not a surprise that his college career has seemed like a longer journey.
What is surprising is that Wade has stuck around despite playing in just 14 games last year, three the year before due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear and none in 2003-04 while facing federal fraud and conspiracy charges of which he was eventually acquitted.
Though those events may have derailed his chances of having the kind of college basketball career he once hoped for, Wade said he never considered giving it up and devoting his sweat to something else.
"I want to stay as long as I can stay," he said. "I love it. You have hard times, but it don't matter. It's so family-oriented and you're just so close to everybody, it's hard to let go. But this year is my last year, so I've got to let go."
For coach John Calipari, Wade is a success story.
When Wade was initially indicted in October 2003 in an identity theft ring, the school suspended Wade from playing, but Calipari allowed him to battle Antonio Burks in practice and be part of the program.
That decision paid off. Wade now is on track to receive a degree in sports management and said he plans to pursue a career as a sports agent.
"We've graduated 12 of our last 15 seniors and here he comes, and he's going to do the same," Calipari said. "He worked at FedEx (in the summer) and they absolutely loved him. He's a kid that has come here and has worked his way to where, I feel comfortable putting him in games and letting him play. We've gotten better and better players every year he's been here, so that's made it harder and harder, but he's done well."
Wade admits to sometimes wondering "what if?"
After the trial, in which a jury found him not guilty, Wade seemed set to be a prime contributor at backup point guard in 2004-05. After three games, however, Wade tore up his knee during a practice and was done for the year. By comparison, playing 32 minutes over 14 games last year for a 33-4 Tigers team was a treat.
"Last year was fun. It was real fun," Wade said. "I didn't play a lot, but I got to play and we won a whole lot of games. They don't cheat anyone here. If Memphis wins, they treat everybody the same. You want to get a lot of minutes, but it is what it is so you just deal with it and still have a good attitude, something will work out."
Had Wade not been able to take his redshirt year, he wouldn't have been eligible to play on this year's team, which he said is the best he's been around at Memphis from an attitude and chemistry standpoint.
And that comes from a fairly good authority, since Wade's association with the Tigers spans the evolution from program in turmoil to Calipari's hiring to its emergence as a national power.
"I know we were real good last year but this is the best team I've ever been around -- attitude, everything," Wade said. "We do a lot together. It's just a real good team.
"Stuff happens for a reason. I'm just happy to be here."
-- Dan Wolken: 901-529-2365