Every player who wears the Kansas State basketball jersey knows that it means something special. When you put on the white jersey with K-State across your chest, it means you're about to walk into a tunnel with nearly 13,000 screaming fans. It's an amazing feeling.

But when you're from the state of Kansas, it means a little bit more.

I didn't really want to go outside of the state, because I wanted to represent the place I'm from. I'm just glad K-State gave me the opportunity to represent them in return.

My name is Dean Wade and for those of you who don't know me, I'm a forward on the KSU basketball team. Growing up my friends called me D-Wade, and while I might not be that D-Wade, I can play a little ball myself.

I didn't get here on my own, however. If it wasn't for my parents and God, I wouldn't be the player I am today.

The two actually go hand in hand. My parents raised me in a Christian household, and when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I decided to pick up a Bible and read the whole thing. Then in 7th or 8th grade, right at that age when you think you're kind of invincible, I began to grow into my faith. I prayed for a lot of things - to be the best person I could be, and to be the best athlete I could be. I really wanted to succeed on the basketball court.

That's when God put in my heart a simple but valuable lesson: hard work.

I wanted to be in the gym every day, all day, and I just wanted to take this basketball thing as far it could take me. And while it technically only took me 169 miles down the road from Saint John to Manhattan (The Little Apple, not the big one) the road to get there took way longer than that.

First, there were the high school games. Home and away. Conference and non-conference. If I was playing, my parents were there.

Then there were the AAU games, like in Las Vegas. My parents were at those games too.

Since I grew up in such a small town, it seemed like the AAU circuit was how I would get noticed. Kansas is full of people from small towns, but even those people would say I really did grow up in a small town. At last count, Saint John had just 1,295 people. Still, both of my parents played collegiate sports and they kept their faith in the whole process.

"If you're good enough, they'll find you," they would tell me.

As it turned out, they were right.

I had a few colleges offer me scholarships my sophomore and junior years, and then my senior year I got a whole bunch of different offers. But my parents and my faith taught me to stay humble and work hard, no matter how many schools wanted me. Plus, I didn't want to go anywhere. I wanted to stay right here in Kansas.

My dad played football at K-State, and now I would get to follow in his footsteps. When I got to Manhattan, I quickly fell in love with the town. Not only is the campus awesome, but the whole town is quiet and reminds me of home. The students are incredibly nice, and would give you the shirt off their back if they had to. All I wanted to do was give them something to cheer about, and it wouldn't be long before I got that opportunity. My coach was going to start me from Day 1.

Day 2 Day 3 Day 4

(Title photo courtesy of Kansas State Athletics)

Thomas Hager