SAN DIEGO — In the six years since Lorrenzo Wade left Las Vegas, his basketball journey has taken several twists and turns. Still, the most intriguing part, the final chapter, is yet to be written.
The 23-year-old San Diego State senior will play a major role in how his own career ends, and, for added drama, he also could have a say in whether UNLV reaches the NCAA Tournament.
Wade leads the Aztecs (20-8, 10-5 Mountain West Conference) against the Rebels (21-8, 9-6) at 7 p.m. today at Cox Arena. Both teams are fighting for postseason positioning, and most likely will meet again Thursday in the MWC tournament quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“It’s going to be like the first round of a championship fight,” Wade said. “I think there’s a lot riding on this game as far as our NCAA hopes are concerned. I definitely want to end my career in the NCAA Tournament.”
Wade had ambitious career plans after he helped Cheyenne High School go 31-1 and win the Nevada Class 4A state title in 2003. He played his final prep season at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, signed with Louisville and came off the bench as a freshman on the Cardinals’ Final Four team.
After transferring to San Diego State, Wade matured into a first-team All-Mountain West pick as a junior. But another twist almost turned his senior year upside down.
Wade was suspended for the first seven games this season before a San Diego Superior Court judge dismissed felony burglary charges against him. Wade was arrested in September, then reinstated by coach Steve Fisher after a judge ruled Wade did not have criminal intent in the robbery of a television from a woman’s apartment.
“I always felt like I was going to come back and pull it together. I feel like I’m mentally tough,” Wade said. “I don’t show much emotion. I don’t get too high or too low. I went through a rough spot, but I tried to think good thoughts.
“Has it been the dream career I envisioned? No, not at all. But am I disappointed? No, I’m not disappointed. I can’t go back and regret anything I did. I have to be satisfied.”
Wade, a 6-foot-6-inch forward, is averaging 13.8 points in 18 games this season, and his defensive skills make him one of the conference’s top all-around players.
“Lorrenzo is as good an athletic basketball player as we’ve had in my 10 years here, and we’re all counting on more before it’s over,” Fisher said.
But before it’s over, Wade wants to go out a winner on Senior Night, and go through the Rebels again next week in a probable MWC tournament rematch in his hometown.
The season series actually could be a trilogy. Wade scored 12 points in the Aztecs’ 68-66 overtime victory at UNLV on Feb. 3, an upset that ended the Rebels’ 27-game home winning streak in the conference.
That was the night, Wade said, when UNLV’s air of invincibility on its home court came to an end.
“I believe that was a really big win. It gave us confidence knowing we can beat UNLV at the Thomas & Mack. It goes to show anybody in this league can be beat on any night,” Wade said.
“A lot of coaches and a lot of players in this league feel like with the Mountain West tournament being on UNLV’s home floor, they have an unfair advantage. Some people are saying Vegas has gotten worse. But I believe the conference has gotten better.”
The Rebels, the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, sit in fifth place mostly because of a 2-5 road record in conference play.
San Diego State can move up in the standings if it wins today and any of the three teams tied for first place — Brigham Young, New Mexico and Utah — suffers an unexpected loss.
“Unfortunately I’m not a very emotional guy, so to me I just want to get the win. I’m just really focused on playing UNLV, getting this win, and building some momentum going into the conference tournament,” Wade said. “The Mountain West is going to get a decent amount of teams in the NCAA Tournament, and I believe we’re going to be one of them.
“I can’t let emotions get the better of me on the court. You might see those emotions if we’re the last team standing at the end of the Mountain West tournament.”
• NOTES — Fisher said Billy White, a sophomore forward from Green Valley High, is questionable to play. White has missed the Aztecs’ past three games with a knee injury. … UNLV is 2-3 in its past five games at Cox Arena.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.
UNLV AT SAN DIEGO STATE
• RECORD: SAN DIEGO STATE 20-8, 10-5 MWC
• COACH: Steve Fisher (167-138, 10th season; 351-220 overall, 18th season)
• PROBABLE STARTERS:
Player Pos. Ht. Ppg.
Ryan Amoroso F 6-8 7.2
Kyle Spain F 6-5 14.4
Tim Shelton F 6-7 8.4
Lorrenzo Wade F 6-6 13.8
Richie Williams G 5-10 7.2
• RECORD: UNLV 21-8, 9-6 MWC
• COACH: Lon Kruger (112-50, fifth season; 430-283 overall, 23rd season)
• PROBABLE STARTERS:
Player Pos. Ht. Ppg.
Joe Darger F 6-7 9.5
Rene Rougeau G 6-6 11.2
Tre’Von Willis G 6-4 11.6
Wink Adams G 6-0 14.3
Oscar Bellfield G 6-2 6.2GAME DAY
UNLV VS. SAN DIEGO STATE
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: Cox Arena, San Diego
TV/RADIO: CBS-C (333); KWWN-AM (1100)
LINE: San Diego State -4; total 130