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GC's Wade signs with Norfolk St.

By DUSTIN KENT | Assistant Sports Editor | Twitter: @PCNHDustinKent

Published: Friday, May 8, 2015 at 17:55 PM.

 

PANAMA CITY — Gulf Coast guard Jonathan Wade made his next destination official Friday by signing with Norfolk State in a ceremony at the college.

 

The former Rutherford Rams standout started 53 games in two seasons with the Commodores, averaging 14 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists as a freshman, and 11.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and two assists as a sophomore.

 

Wade joins a Norfolk State team that won 20 games and finished second in the Mid-Eastern Conference last season under second-year coach Robert Jones.

 

The Spartans have averaged exactly 20 wins over the past three seasons, but it’s the atmosphere away from the court that Wade said was most appealing to him about the program.

 

“The coaches are amazing. It’s like a family,” Wade said. “It kind of reminds me of (Rutherford coach Rhondie Ross) in high school. With me and (Coach Jones), it’s a family type of relationship. He accepts you as more of a family member instead of just a coach and player. He wants to develop more of a relationship and a family type bond on and off the court.”

 

Norfolk State also has some similarities to the Rams on the court, playing a fast-paced style of basketball that Wade said he came to love while playing for Ross at Rutherford.

 

“I like the up-tempo game,” Wade said. “I like to play real fast and push in transition. (Jones) is more of a player’s coach. Whatever you can do good, he’ll set you up to do that type of stuff. It’s about doing anything for players to get better shots and be comfortable in the offense.”

 

Gulf Coast coach Jay Powell said he believes it’s a great fit for both player and program.

 

“They play pretty quick and fast and Jon is good at attacking the basket in the open court,” Powell said. “I think he’ll do well in that atmosphere. He’ll do real well on the offensive end. For the defensive end, I think he took more charges than anybody I had the last two years, so he’ll fit in real well on that end. too. I know (the Spartans) like to really get after it defensively and get into people.”

 

Wade said Jones expects him to be a multi-positional player at the next level, getting time at both backcourt positions as well as small forward.

 

The 6-foot-5 guard has been more of a slasher and finisher than a shooter thus far in his career, but Powell said he believes it’s only a matter of time before Wade’s offensive game becomes more diverse and complete.

 

“He’s going to shoot the ball more consistently (at Norfolk State). I just know he is,” Powell said. “He’s got a good

stroke and a good release. Sometimes his 3-point percentage would show that he didn’t shoot it as well from three as I believe he’ll do at the next level. I think he’ll do that and that will make him a pretty complete player.”

 

Wade said he wanted to expand his range as a shooter, but that’s just one of many areas that he feels he can improve this offseason and over the next couple of years.

 

“I feel like coach Powell has really prepared me for the next level just through everyday workouts with the guys and getting ready for Panhandle Conference play, so I feel like it’s just being more physical and getting bigger because all of the players are bigger at that level,” Wade said. “I need to get a little more weight on me and get stronger so it will be easier for me to defend bigger guys and be more physical on the court.

 

“That’s the main goal to try to improve on, but I want to improve on everything as a player. I want to get more range on my shot, be a better ballhandler, and really just improve totally as a player. If I can improve on every aspect of my game moving forward, two years from now I’ll be where I really want to be and that’s being a pro.”

 

Playing for pay is the goal for almost everyone who plays college basketball, but before Wade can do that, he has another lifetime dream to pursue: playing in the NCAA tournament.

 

Norfolk State has made tournament once since moving to Division I in 1997, getting there in 2012 as a 15-seed and upsetting 2-seed Missouri 86-84 before losing to Florida in the round of 32.

 

The Spartans have been knocking on the door of the NCAA tourney in recent seasons, with Wade saying that getting them get back there is a big motivation for him.

 

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