Despite his passion for basketball, Dwyane Wade was not much more than an average player as a youngster. Initially, he made a bigger impression on the football coaches at H.L. Richards High School in Oak Lawn, on the South Side of Chicago, than he did on basketball coach Jack Fitzgerald’s squad.
A gritty cornerback and wide receiver, Wade showed promise on the gridiron, but he couldn’t kick his obsession with basketball. So he spent his second season with the Bulldogs on the sophomore basketball team.
Determined to earn time on the varsity team, Wade worked out all summer long before his junior year, improving his ball-handling skills and his outside shot. Wade’s body cooperated, too, as he shot up nearly four inches to more than six feet tall.
Always a tenacious rebounder, Wade now had the size and skills to excel in all phases of the game. Recognizing an emerging star, Fitzgerald made the junior his go-to guy. Wade did it all for the Bulldogs. If Richards needed to break the press, Fitzgerald put the ball in Wade’s hands. If the team needed a hoop in close, Wade got the ball in the post. For the year, he averaged 20.7 points and 7.6 rebounds, and opened eyes all around Chicagoland.
He responded to the extra attention with an even more marvelous senior season. Wade went for a double-double almost every game that year, averaging 27.0 points and 11.0 rebounds while leading his team to a 24-5 record and a berth in the title game of the Class AA Sectionals of the 1999-00 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Championship (though perhaps without the acclaim of former Heat player Patrick Beverley, who made the final four of the Class AA State Championships with his Marshall high school team in 2005-06, or Derrick Rose, who won the Class AA State Championship with his Simeon high school team in 2005-06 and 2006-07). Wade set school records for points (676) and steals (106) in a season.
The college scholarship offers didn’t come, though. Wade was recruited by only three college basketball teams for the incoming class of 2000 (Marquette University, Illinois State, and DePaul University), primarily due to academic problems. Fearing he wouldn’t be able to cut it academically, most schools backed off. Marquette was the exception. The Golden Eagles accepted Dwyane as a partial qualifier, meaning he could practice with the basketball team as a freshman but not suit up for games due to a violation of the NCAA’s Proposition 48.
Academically ineligible for play during his freshman year at Marquette, Wade sought tutoring to improve his writing skills in order to regain eligibility. When he became eligible to play the following year (2001–02), he led the Golden Eagles in scoring with 17.8 points per game, led the conference in steals at 2.5 per game, and accumulated averages of 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Marquette finished with a 26–7 record, the school’s best record since the 1993–94 season.
Wade had displayed not only perseverance but also toughness, playing the latter half of the season through injury. After the season, in March 2002, Wade underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a small tear in his lateral meniscus. The torn portion of the meniscus was removed, and Wade was back on the court training for his junior year within weeks. Read more…