ALL-CENTURY TEAM MEMBER
LSU’s first basketball All-American averaged 9.7 points per game in 1933 and 12.4 points per game in 1934 to lead the scoring category for the first two years of the Southeastern Conference. He was named an All-American in 1935 while leading LSU to the mythical national championship, averaging 12.7 points per game. A native of Jena, Wade is considered the greatest dribbler and backcourt star in LSU basketball history.
Before moving to LSU, he was named to the high school All-State team three times from 1928 to 1930. He was elected MVP of the national high school championship playoffs as a senior.
Former Baton Rouge Morning Advocate sports editor Bud Montet, remembers Wade in these words:
“He could do everything with a basketball but dunk it, and make it sing. If there was an extraordinary floor-leader in the South at that time, it had to be Wade.”
The three-time All-SEC selection is also a member of the Louisiana Sports Writers and Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. He was the “Little Giant from Jena.” You can’t talk LSU basketball without mention of the school’s first All-American and first showman who could pass, score and dribble with the best of his and many others era.
Malcolm “Sparky” Wade was the start of a legendary basketball team before he went to Louisiana State University .
Two consecutive state championships were not enough for the Jena Giants of 1929 and 1930. A 20-year-old med student who had just completed undergraduate work at LSU, Hardtner “Bud” Gaharan, coached the 1930 team, which practiced and played home games on an outdoor dirt court. After winning state titles, the Giants represented Louisiana in the Stagg national interscholastic tournament sponsored by the University of Chicago both years.
Physically, the Jena players belied their nickname. Ernest “Pug” Doughty, the 6-1 center who later played for H. Lee Prather's Louisiana Normal Demons, was the only starter taller than six feet. Several of his teammates – Nick Medica and Everett Warner in 1929, Wade and Clyde Stallcup both years – were 5-6 or less. Even when they played in Central Louisiana and North Louisiana tournaments, the Giants were usually smaller than their opponents. But in talent and teamwork, they were true Giants.
“We had to knock ice off the goals to practice, recalled Stallcup, who played college basketball at Centenary, directed Shreveport's recreation department for 27 years and officiated football and basketball games more than 45 years (17 in the Southwest Conference). “The first time we played indoors was in the 1929 Central Louisiana Rally.”
Wade was the star of the show, and he didn't let anybody forget it. As a showman (or showboat, depending on your point of view), he was basketball's answer to Dizzy Dean – a fast-talking country boy whose actions on the court had to be something special to speak louder than this words. But, as Dean once noted, “If you can do it, it ain't bragging.” Dizzy and Sparky could do it.
In 1929, all Louisiana high schools competed in the same classification in the annual state rally at LSU. Jena was considered a dark horse entry, but the Giants advanced to the finals with victories over Bolton of Alexandria and Walker. Then they trounced Ouachita 3-12 in the title game, and Wade won a berth on the All-State team.
A month later, they went to Chicago for the national tournament and scored narrow victories over Wheatland , Wyoming (27-24) and Kentucky state champion Heath (25-23) before falling to Joes, Colorado , 32-20 in the quarterfinals.
The following February, Jena came to Shreveport for the second annual YMCA tournament. The Giants' first opponent was East Point , which had a perfect record against Louisiana opponents that season and had been in the tourney finals the previous year. Leading by 9-6 at the half, Jena did all the scoring in the second half for a 22-6 victory. It was more of the same against Longstreet, as Jena pulled away from a 14-6 halftime lead to win going away, 30-8. Robert “Rip” Johnson, who later played at Texas Christian University , and Wade each scored 10 points in that game. In the finals, Warner scored 13 and Wade 12 as the Giants, leading 12-10 at halftime, defeated Byrd's Yellow Jackets 37-18. Later that night, Jena played an independent team, Southern Cities. The three games earlier in the day took their toll as the Giants fell, 39-34, despite 12 points by Wade and 10 by Doughty.
Jena averaged 42 points per game that season, and didn't hurt its average in the state rally at LSU. The Giants rolled past Walker 47-30 and defeated Fisher 41-24 in the championship game. Wade Doughty and Johnson were all-tournament selections.
Between the state rally and the national tournament, Jena returned to Shreveport as the featured attraction in a doubleheader opening the new Municipal Auditorium and scored a 52-35 victory over Sparco, an independent power.
When they went back to Chicago , it didn't take Wade long to show writers covering the national tournament that he wasn't short on confidence. “I want to know,” he asked them, “who are the other four players you will put on the All-American team?”
“He's good,” United Press correspondent Bert Demby wrote after Jena 's 49-21 romp past Clovis , N.M. , in the opening round, “and he didn't mind letting the fans know that he knows he's good. He kidded with the fans, he clowned with his opponents, he outguessed them; he out-dribbled them and he turned loose disconcerting war whoops.”
After victories over Lakeland , Fla. , 41-15, and New Brunswick , N.J. , 30-23, Jena beat Kentucky state champion Corinth 2-15 in the semifinals. Then they Giants fell to defending champion Athens , Texas , 22-16 in the finals. A 10-0 run in the second quarter provided the winning margin for Athens , the tallest team in the tournament. Jena rallied to cut the deficit to four points in the fourth quarter, but Athens became the first team to win back-to-back titles and handled the Giants their only loss in 36 games with prep teams.
There was no official tournament in high school or college basketball at that time, but Wade led two Louisiana teams to “national championship” games. One was the Jena Giants and the other was the LSU Tigers, who shared the 1935 Southeastern Conference title with Kentucky and beat Pittsburgh for the mythical national championship.
Although he was the leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference in the first two years of its existence and won All-American acclaim in his senior season (1934-35), Wade was never an especially prolific scorer. He was scoreless against Athens , and made only one field goal against Pitt five years later. But he dazzled fans and opponents with his ball-handling and sleight-of-hands, dribbling between his legs as he faced full speed down the court and whipping passes behind his back. Rice fans called him “Monkey” because he made so many wry faces, but it usually was Wade who made a monkey of the player trying to guard him as he penetrated the defense and passed to teammates for easy baskets.
It didn't surprise Wade a bit when he was the first basketball player inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. He was good, and he knew it.