This is the fourth of ten posts revealing the ten Marquette nominees for the SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame. These are in no particular order, except for the particular order they're in.
It was 2000 when I first heard of this guy on the Marquette men's basketball team named "Wade."
At that time, a friend was working for the MU women's basketball team, which forced him to spend many hours at the Old Gym, where the men's team also practiced. When asked for a preseason scouting report on the upcoming team, all my buddy could talk about was some guy named Dwyane Wade. Unfortunately, we had to wait a year to witness what our friend was trying to convey to us, but it was well worth the wait. What we didn't know was that this guy named Wade was going to reverse a bit of a stagnant trend of mediocre basketball and lead Marquette University back into the national spotlight after years of relative irrelevance.
All the D-Wade you can possibly handle, after the jump.
Dwyane Wade arrived at Marquette University as an unheralded recruit out of Harold Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Wade came on late as a high school player, and eventually had a successful senior campaign, averaging 27.0 pts and 11.0 rebounds and leading his team to the season's title game of the Class AA Sectional. Dwyane's late run of success eventually earned him scholarship offers from Illinois State, Depaul University, and, of course, Marquette. Then Marquette Head Coach Tom Crean fell in love with Wade's athleticism, tenacity, toughness, and leadership on the floor and after a hard push for his committment from Crean's staff, Dwyane eventually decided to take the short trip north to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to attend MU.
After sitting out one season to meet eligibility requirements, Wade burst onto the college basketball scene for the 2001-02 season and made an immediate impact on the program. In his first season, Dwyane led the Golden Eagles in scoring with 17.8 ppg, averaged 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists, and led the conference in steals with 2.47 per game. Marquette finished the season with a 27-6 record, the school's best record since the 1993-94 season, and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. With a full season of D1 basketball under his belt, Dwyane continued to impress throughout the 2002-03 season. Again, he led the team in scoring by increasing his scoring output to a tune of 21.5 ppg. While his ability to put the ball in the basket was impressive, it was Wade's ability to lead his team and make everyone around him better that really stood out. This statless aspect took the team to another level and resulted in a 27-6 record, the school's first and only Conference USA Championship, and a second consecutive birth in the NCAA tournament.
I can point out handfuls of memorable games that Wade had during his two years at MU, but I don't think there is one game that was as memorable from an individual standpoint or a program-changing standpoint than the game vs. the heavily favored and #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight of the 2003 NCAA Tournament. Not only did Wade lead the Golden Eagles to victory, he led them to an absolute throttling of the Wildcats -- and he did it in style. Wade recorded the fourth triple-double in NCAA tourney history, putting up a ridiculous line of 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. His performance during the Midwest Regional of the 2003 NCAA Tournament was highly publicized in the media and may have assisted in his increased NBA stock entering the draft. Marquette finished the 2003 season ranked #6 in the AP poll, the school's highest ranking since the '76-77 seasons. If you're interested in reminiscing in this program-changing performance, here are a few links. Enjoy!
Following his incredible run through the 2002-03 season, Wade decided to leave Marquette one year early to enter the NBA draft. In spite of the eye-popping numbers that he put up in college, many of the experts were skeptical due to his size (lack of a true position) and inconsistent jumper. The Miami Heat gambled and selected Dwyane 5th overall behind the likes of Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony ... not bad company. Pat Riley's gamble on Wade paid off -- and then some. Like his impact on the Marquette basketball program, Wade had an immediate impact on the Miami Heat organization. Wade had a successful rookie campaign and helped the Miami Heat qualify for the playoffs after a year in the lottery. He earned a unanimous selection to the 2004 All-NBA Rookie Team, but was a bit overshadowed by Lebron and 'Melo and eventually finished third in voting for Rookie of the Year. By his third season, Wade had taken his game to an All-Star caliber level and averaged 27.2 points, 6.7 assists, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per contest.
It was this season (2005-06) that Wade solidified his status as NBA star, when he led the Heat to a thrilling comeback against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. He averaged 34.7 points per game and was awarded the NBA Finals MVP (the fifth youngest ever and something that Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony are still chasing).
It's difficult to verbalize what Dwyane Wade has meant to Marquette University. He arrived on campus at a time when Tom Crean was working hard to improve what was a mediocre program and immediately got the program out of the rut that it was in. His play and leadership was not only crucial in putting Marquette's program back on the map, it was extremely timely in that it made MU a contender and eventual invitee to the Big East Conference. Due to this move, the Marquette program is constantly in the national spotlight. Today, many high school recruits throughout the country attribute their interest in MU to: "That's where Wade went." This relatively small and obscure private institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is back on the map due, in large part, to Wade's accomplishments. Marquette's national exposure not only leads to continued success on the basketball court, it leads to an overall improvement of the University from an academic standpoint. These facts cannot be understated.
It is for these reasons that I hereby nominate Dwyane Wade for the SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame. Was there ever any doubt?