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Dwyane Wade

February 3, 2003 Columns No Comments

Wading above the Talent

by Bill Thayer

His name evokes images of a certain sit-com character. You know, the one with the flip glasses who was in love with Denise Huxtable. He plays in Milwaukee, not for the Bucks, but in the same arena. He’s an All-America candidate from Chicago, but did not even finish in the top five in Illinois Mr. Basketball voting his senior year of high school.

Maybe you’ve heard of him, or misspelled his name, he’s Marquette’s star junior Dwyane Wade.

If Wade spends his collegiate career under the radar it won’t be anything new. “I wasn’t recruited real big,” Wade said. “I knew where I wanted to be right away. I made a great decision to come to Marquette because right away I got a chance to show I could play a little bit.”

Partly because of his better-known city mates, partly because of his academic status, Wade was passed over by many larger schools, leading to his decision to sign with Marquette. Of course, that didn’t quite make the splash he had hoped. After deciding to attend Marquette, Wade and fellow Chicago high school star Odartey Blankson called a Wisconsin paper to let their collegiate intentions known. It just happened to be at halftime of a Green Bay Packers Monday night football game. What they had hoped to be a major announcement was shoved aside due to the NFL.

While his announcement was not headline grabbing material in Wisconsin, at least one man knew what type of talent the Golden Eagles were getting. “One of my coaches, Dwayne Stephens, kept calling me every ten minutes,” head coach Tom Crean recalled when learning about Wade. “He just kept raving about what Dwyane did. I’ll never forget the day. He was in a Christmas tournament in Chicago. He had 48 points in the morning during a 10 o’clock game and another 42 points in a game at 8 that night. I think he also averaged 13 or 14 rebounds in those two games.”

Looking over box scores from his two-year career, those numbers seem typical for Wade. But, back in high school, Wade never demanded that type of respect. It was difficult standing out, especially for somebody who has been referred to as “shy” and “humble” numerous times. It was made more so considering Wade was playing alongside Darius Miles and T.J. Cummings in AAU ball.

Sometimes bad things happen for a reason. Wade was not eligible to play his freshman year, but became the first partial qualifier to enroll at Marquette. A season on the sideline helped Wade mature as a player, sitting beside Crean during games many times and address his teammates during halftime. One game, Wade ranked the performance of one of his teammates on a scale of one to ten as a three.

The responsibilities given to Wade that season was just part of his maturation. Marquette prides itself on its academic reputation, so accepting a player with substandard grades are rare, but Wade has proven that he belongs. Last semester Dwyane earned a 3.0 grade point average, and, in the off-season, became both a father and a husband.

Looking back, its not surprising to see his name come after Miles and Eddy Curry in the 2000 Illinois Mr. Basketball voting. But after two spectacular seasons as a Golden Eagle its clear that we may soon see his name on another list that Miles and Curry was on, the draft wishes of many NBA teams.

Assorted Musings&#8482 (the real deal, don’t buy any imposters)

• Kansas’ season could have been DONE after the collapse against Arizona, but to the credit of Nick Collison the Jayhawks remain in the national title picture after their win Monday night against Texas. Collison, who has drawn comparisons to Kevin McHale, looked like the former Celtic as he pulled down 23 rebounds in the win. He proved that, while it is good to have plenty of talent, a team needs to have senior leaders at some point in big games.

• It has slipped under the radar, but Danny Granger, who had a 20/20 game himself earlier this season, transferred to New Mexico from Bradley. While it hasn’t drawn the same amount of attention as Jason Conley did when he left VMI, the announcement was a score for the Lobos. Bradley is claiming tampering, as a former member of their coaching staff is now in Albuquerque, but it is possible that Granger was not comfortable playing under new head coach Jim Les. Many times a player will choose a school based on the coaching staff, so when the Braves brought in a new staff, they should have expected some players to be unhappy.

• How tough is it in the SEC? Check out what Mo Williams said after losing to Kentucky last week. “At this point in the season, we’re really playing just trying to make the tournament.” Not the type of confidence you would expect to see from the point guard on a top five team. The Tide needs Kennedy Winston to become a perimeter threat, as teams are double teaming big men Erwin Dudley and Kenny Walker.

• Emeka Okafor is a special player and Ben Gordon is a rising talent, but Connecticut will live and die by Taliek Brown. last week St. John’s pressured the Husky guards when Brown was on the bench with four fouls and repeatedly forced turnovers and bad shots. The Huskies need Brown to create on offense, they just don’t have anybody else who can create offensively.

• Remember when people thought Memphis had a shot at the tournament? Me neither.

• Utah scored a huge win over BYU last weekend, ending the nation’s longest home-court winning streak at 44. The Utes did so without head coach Rick Majerus, who left the team to attend the funeral of Andre Miller’s stepfather.

• I’m not sure anybody is playing better than Florida right now. If the Gators played in the Big Ten or Big East, I would ink them in as a number one seed for the tournament. The SEC could still prove to be too hazardous as they have to play Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky again … and that’s just looking in their division. Their non-conference schedule is one of the hardest in the nation; the beat Maryland (away), Kansas (neutral court), Miami (away) and South Florida. That doesn’t even include a pair of losses at West Virginia (one of the hardest trips in the country this year) and Stanford (ask Arizona how difficult the Cardinal can be).

• The ACC regular season will end with co-champions having at least four conference losses each. Outside of Maryland and Wake Forest, it doesn’t seem as if anybody else there can win on the road. Example: Georgia Tech, 10-0 at home this year, 1-7 in road and neutral site game.

• Got into an interesting argument at work about the All-Big East teams, where you can make a case for almost ten players to be first team. My thought on the matter: Mike Sweetney, Emeka Okafor, Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Hatten and Chris Thomas first team. Brandin Knight, Julius Page, Matt Carroll, Drew Schifino and Troy Bell second team. Hakim Warrick, Ben Gordon, Gary Buchanan, Darius Rice and Andre Barrett on the third team. That’s a lot of talent, and, other than Bell, Hatten and Buchanan, none are seniors. We could be witness to the rebirth of the conference. Worried about players leaving early? Then check out the other four members of the all-freshman team: Craig Smith, Gerry McNamara, Randy Foye and Torin Francis. Loads of talent.

• I am currently in the process of reading the latest John Feinstein book, The Punch, about the Kermit Washington-Rudy Tomjanovich fight. The first chapter (which was run in Sports Illustrated) is incredible, but essentially is repeated over and over throughout the book. Easily the worst of Feinstein’s basketball works. If you want a good reach, check out A Civil War… Feinstein’s look at the Army and Navy football programs. It’s my favorite sports book.

• Not to say “I told you so,” but it’s amazing to see how empty the Chris Duhon bandwagon has become.

• While I’m tooting my own horn, I found it funny reading a columnist on one of the other “major” web sites who wrote “You heard it here first: Texas will make the Final Four.” Looking back to November, somebody for Hoopville declared the Longhorns would become the national champions. So wouldn’t that make that other columnist the second person to say it?

• Creighton should not get ripped for losing at Evansville. It was obvious that they could not run the table in the Valley. They will have too many road games in conference where they will face a hostile crowd and the best effort from the opposition. It’s too much to ask them to defeat every challenger easily. That does not mean you won’t see them make a run deep into March.

• Hey Guy: we’ll miss you buddy.


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