Once Wade—the Badgers' best perimeter defender and ball handler—returns for game action, he will immediately strengthen Wisconsin's back court. A starting guard last season, Wade, a 6-foot-3 junior, was expected to take over the reins at point guard from departed star Devin Harris, who jumped to the NBA last spring.
Wade, however, left the team Oct. 25—less than two weeks after the start of formal practices—saying in a prepared statement that he needed time away from basketball "to concentrate on some personal issues in my life." The decision was reached in concert with UW head coach Bo Ryan. Specific reasons for Wade's departure and the timing of his return have not been released. Both Wade and Ryan have asked for privacy in the matter.
"He's a real good friend of all of ours and part of the team, and it's just nice to see him back," senior forward Mike Wilkinson said after practice Wednesday. "Once he gets comfortable again out on the floor, he will contribute and that's what we need."
Neither Wade or Ryan were available for comment Wednesday but each released prepared statements.
"Obviously I'm very pleased to have Boo back practicing with us," Ryan said. "After a number of discussions with Boo over the past few weeks, we came to the joint decision that now was the right time for him to re-join the team."
"I appreciate everyone respecting my privacy as to the reasons for my absence and the timing of my return," Wade said. "I'm just looking forward to the rest of the season and helping my teammates in the upcoming months."
In Wade's absence, senior Sharif Chambliss has commanded the point guard position. Chambliss, a natural shooting guard, has started the Badgers' past four games and is averaging 15 points and 2.8 assists in the past five contests. For the season, Chambliss is third on the team with 9.8 points per game, while averaging 2.3 assists and 1.3 turnovers per game.
Sophomore Kammron Taylor opened the season as UW's starting point guard, but moved to a reserve role after four games. He is averaging 6.0 points, 1.4 assists and 1.9 turnovers in 20.4 minutes per game.
Wade started 28 of 30 games last season, averaging 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.0 steal per game. He was a top reserve as a freshman, playing 20.2 minutes per game while producing 3.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.8 steals per contest. Wade's career 1.79 assist-to-turnover ratio is actually a little better than Harris' 1.74.
"You never know what's going to happen as a player develops but he had shown signs towards the end of last year that he was handling the ball better; that he was more of an offensive threat," assistant coach Gary Close said. "His defense always remains steady. Maybe he was going to take another jump in that regard. Maybe he still will."
"I think everybody knows he's a terrific defensive guard," Close said. "He's got a great ability to lock on people and [the Big Ten] has got some great guards in it."
"We're just going to bring him along slowly and when he feels he's physically and mentally ready for game action, we'll make that decision as a staff," Ryan said.
"He hasn't played in a while. He's got a long way to go in terms of getting in the conditioning," Close said. "Like any player on this team, he's got to earn his way onto the court. I don't know how long that will take him."
While on his leave of absence, Wade was not to participate in any team activities but was free to work out on his own. Citing a unnamed source, The Capital Times reported Wednesday that Wade "worked out diligently during his time away from the team." Wade looked comfortable in his practice debut but still has rust to knock off before he can make a full return.
"He's the kind of guy that will come back and work his butt off, try and get back in the flow and do everything he can to help this team win," Wilkinson said.
"Once he gets there, if he gets there, then how far he can take it will be interesting to see," Close said. "He's an experienced player. He's played a lot of basketball at this level. That's an advantage that he has if he can get himself into shape."
Wade thanked his teammates and coaches for their support during his leave of absence.
"I'm excited to get back with my teammates and start practicing," Wade said. "They were very supportive during my time away, as was the coaching staff."
"We prayed for Boo to work through his situation," junior guard Ray Nixon said of the team's support. "We never let Boo get too far from us."
"Just like any member of your family that's dealing with different things, you just want to give them support and say, ‘Hey, we're here if you need us,'" Close said.
"He's always been a part of the team whether he's here or not," Wilkinson said. "Even when he wasn't here, we'd still see him around and talk to him."