A week ago, thousands of students received an email from the University of Michigan. Thousands achieved their dream, their years of hard work finally paid off.
One of them was Brandon Wade.
The guard took a longer, different path than the rest. Wade is a transfer — he played his freshman year with Duquesne in Pittsburgh before deciding he needed to leave.
“After the year I just needed to reflect on myself because obviously (life) is a lot more than just the game of basketball,” Wade said. “So I was reflective a lot on myself and what I wanted from myself and what I did the past year.
“It just got to a point where — obviously my minutes were fluctuated — but that didn’t really play a part in my decision, I guess it was really more just … I’m really big into mental health and how I feel about myself. And reflecting on my past year at Duquesne, it was really up and down, in terms of what I thought I wanted and what I wanted for myself and so it led me here.”
An Ann Arbor native, Wade was a four-year starter for Ann Arbor Skyline in high school and was named First Team All-State his senior year, yet he wasn’t drawing significant scholarship interest from bigger schools.
He, like so many of the students accepted to Michigan, had to consider money. And so he went to the Dukes.
Freshman year is hard. Spending time away from your family for the first time can take a toll on someone, especially someone like Wade — who considers family one of the most important parts of his life. So when he left Duquesne and came home, there was one thing he wanted.
Wade received offers from his father’s alma mater, Toledo, and from Washtenaw County counterpart, Eastern, but the boy who lived two minutes from the Crisler Center was determined. It was going to be the Wolverines.
John Beilein’s departure wouldn’t change his dream, and Michigan coach Juwan Howard still welcomed Wade, with assistant coach Saddi Washington helping along the process.
Wade’s parents, and especially his dad, who was an assistant coach to him in high school, stepped back and let him make his own decision. They encouraged him. It wasn’t all about basketball anymore.
There remained one hurdle, though. The same one that the rest of the thousands who received an email last week faced — academics. Wade took summer and fall classes at Washtenaw Community College, and submitted his application in October.
Throughout the whole process, he’s been alongside the team. He went to games. When he was allowed to, he watched practices. He’s built relationships with his new teammates, the coaches.
“I’m a big family guy,” Wade said. “I have a big family, so just being able to have that connection with my teammates and my coaches, it really translates to the floor. While I’m talking about mental health and stuff, knowing that I have my brothers and my brothers are going to have my back no matter what, it’s really relieving to me.”
Friday was his first practice with the team. Wade found out Thursday.
“It was just like—it’s here now,” Wade said. “Everything I’ve been working for since the spring, it has led me to this exact point and now I get to ride with it.”
His number will be four. He has a locker. He’s on the team, as a preferred walk-on. His hard work paid off.
Now he, like the thousands of others accepted last week, has a lot more work. Wade won’t play this year and whether or not he’ll be able to play next fall is up in the air. There are dozens more up and downs for him to deal with.
“That’s what pushes me more, the fact that I’m not on the court,” Wade said. “It’s like I know what position I’m in now and I know going into this what it’s going to take to get onto the floor. … I’m just going to take in as much as I can possibly take in. Keep working on my game, keep getting stronger every day and let god do his work.’
With senior guard Zavier Simpson graduating at the end of the year, Wade has a few months to learn from one of the best players at the position in the country.
It was obvious after one practice where he needs to improve the most.
“My body,” Wade said. “I can tell there’s a huge difference in terms of running, conditioning, weight room stuff. I just have to get myself used to the schedules and get my body right and as ready as I can for the Big Ten.”
For now, though, it’s a lifelong dream come true. It’s an achievement that brings tremors to his voice as he recalls the details.