SALT LAKE CITY -- Like any rabid fan base Gonzaga’s is not only invested in the players currently wearing a Bulldog uniform – but those who will do so in the coming seasons as well.
When news that Jesse Wade, a point guard from just outside of Salt Lake City, had picked the Zags, the response was a unique blend of surprise and curiosity. That is because Wade himself is different than nearly any other recruit in the program’s history.
“He’s been given a hard time by committing to Gonzaga being LDS but he feels very strongly and we do as a family that’s definitely the right place for him to be,” said Eric Wade, Jesse’s dad.
It has been nearly three and a half years since Wade committed to Gonzaga. The last two of which he has spent on a mission through the Mormon Church. An experience his dad is quite familiar with.
“I can tell you right now it was a heck of a lot easier to go on a mission than it was to send my son on a mission,” Eric explained.
The younger Wade left home in April of 2015 to serve in France and Switzerland. His family is excited to get him back in less than a month.
“We miss him a lot,” his dad said.
Missionaries are able to have regular contact with loved ones through email and video messages. They only get to speak with family twice a year on Christmas and Mother’s Day.
Tuesday was a rare exception. With the help of the LDS church, KREM 2 was able to arrange a phone call with Wade from his current location in the French capital city of Lyon.
“It’s been so amazing looking back over these two years just to see everything that’s happened all the amazing experiences,” Jesse said in the phone call.
Jesse left home as a teenager, moving to a different part of the world, learning a new language, and breaking from his normal routine to dedicate his time and energy to the church.
“It was a lot different in the beginning and it was hard it was really hard to kind of adjust to everything,” said Jesse. “It’s funny because at first you come here and it’s so hard everything is so new and after these two years it’s very bittersweet.”
During the last two years Wade has left behind one very important part of his daily routine: Basketball. While he’s only able to play one day a week, a video from an outdoor court one night on the island of Corsica shows his jumper is just fine.
“I definitely haven’t been playing as much as I did but it’s still good,” Jesse explained.
With contact back home also limited, so is his ability to track his future team in one of its best seasons. He followed their 29-0 start and ascent to a one seed with the help of friends and family. He did get one glimpse of the Zags, following their early February visit to Provo.
“I’ve been able to follow them. I definitely haven’t been on a game to game basis,” he said.
Jesse’s dad has sent him video messages from current Zags and his future teammates.
“Two months you better be ready we’re waiting for you,” said Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins said in one message.
One message was from forward Killian Tillie in French that Jesse wouldn’t have understood two years ago. Jesse said it’s nice he will have someone he can work on his French with.
In a few months Wade will finally have the opportunity to move to another new town to begin his college basketball career.
“I’m very excited. Ever since I was a little kid it’s been a dream and I feel like the mission has helped me form certain habits to help me to kind of take that next step and go into college,” Jesse said.
Gonzaga fans will be happy to have him. Just as his family will be glad to get him back, a little bit closer to home.