Whether it was good fortune or good timing or both, Cade Wagner spent a month as a Division I basketball player — in one of the top conferences in the country, no less.
(ABOVE: Former Highland Park forward Cade Wagner was on Oklahoma State’s roster for the last nine games of the season after making the team at an open tryout. Courtesy photos by Bay/OSU Athletics)
The former Highland Park standout was one of three Oklahoma State students who joined the Cowboys midway through the Big 12 schedule to fill holes on a depleted roster. Regardless of the strange circumstances, Wagner is grateful for the opportunity.
“It had always been a dream to play college basketball,” Wagner said. “It was a surreal situation, for sure.”
After dismissing three players from the team in mid-January for disciplinary reasons, OSU head coach Mike Boynton decided to hold an open tryout to bolster his team’s bench depth.
Wagner, a freshman finance major, saw the news on Instagram after playing in an intramural game with some of his fraternity brothers. He was one of about 50 hopefuls who showed up.
I went from being an average student to the next day being part of a D-1 basketball program. -Cade Wagner
“I’d kick myself if I didn’t take this opportunity. I just wanted to have some fun and see what happened,” Wagner said. “My mentality was to shoot it every chance I get and play as hard as I could. I had nothing to lose.”
After the tryout, as Wagner was taking his shoes off, one of the graduate assistant coaches came up and introduced himself. A week later, he got a call inviting him to practice the next day.
“I went from being an average student to the next day being part of a D-1 basketball program,” said Wagner, a 6-foot-6 forward and one of three walk-ons added to the roster ahead of a Feb. 13 game against Texas Tech.
“The guys were incredible and super accepting. They made us feel right at home,” he said. “I felt like I was a scholarship player. That’s how everyone treated me.”
The walk-ons mostly served as a scout team to go against OSU’s starters at practice. But Wagner traveled to road games and even saw a minute of action at the end of that Texas Tech game, as well as the following week at Kansas State. Both games were on national television.
“My mindset was just to make the other guys better. I didn’t expect any playing time,” Wagner said. “I just was playing the game I love and grateful for the opportunity.”
Wagner knows the chances are slim that he’ll be a part of the program again next season, once the roster is replenished. But he’ll stay in shape just in case.
“At this point, it’s out of my hands,” he said. “I’m ready to help if that opportunity arises.”