Without a Blemish
Marquette is off to a 9-0 start behind multitalented rookie guard Dwyane Wade
Marquette Guard Dwyane Wade was familiar with the play coach Tom Crean was drawing up, so he spent most of the timeout visualizing how he would react once the action resumed. The Golden Eagles trailed Indiana by one point with 21 seconds left in the semifinals of the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 23. Crean had called for an isolation play for senior forward Oluoma Nnamaka, so Wade pictured himself going to the boards for a follow shot. Sure enough, a Hoosiers' defender knocked the ball loose from Nnamaka, but Wade, a 6'4" sophomore, was in perfect position to grab the loose ball and bank in the game-winner. "It was a great feeling because I had just got done picturing it in my mind," Wade says. "An athlete needs to read situations before they happen."
That moment recalled Wade's boyhood days spent shooting by himself on his family's driveway in Oaklawn, Ill. "I'd imagine nine other guys were out there, and I'd be calling people's names," he says. Still, Wade couldn't have dreamed he'd have such success so early in his first college season. Through Sunday, the Golden Eagles were 9-0 (with wins over Tennessee and Gonzaga as well as Indiana) and, at No. 17, had their highest ranking since 1993, largely thanks to Wade, who led them in points (19.2 per game), rebounds (7.4), assists (4.9) and steals (2.4).
Wade's visualization skills served him especially well last season, when he had to sit out games as an academic partial qualifier. During practices he usually played the part of the upcoming opponent's best player, whether that was a point guard or a power forward. "That expanded his game because he had to use different skills," says assistant coach Tod Kowalczyk. Wade also spent a lot of time working out by himself when Marquette was playing on the road. To keep him feeling part of the team, the coaches called Wade from the locker room after each away game and passed the phone to the players.
Unlike Memphis's Dajuan Wagner, his biggest competitor for rookie of the year honors in Conference USA, Wade doesn't have to carry the scoring load. Marquette's starting lineup features three seniors—including point guard Cordell Henry, a four-year starter—and Crean, a former Michigan State assistant, has built a solid foundation on the same ethos of toughness and unselfishness that his old boss, Tom Izzo, has instilled in the Spartans. Despite having only one player taller than 6'8", Marquette is second in Conference USA in scoring defense (56.6 points a game) and fourth in rebounding margin (+6.2).
When other schools lost interest in recruiting Wade because of his academic shortcomings, Crean never wavered. That loyalty is paying dividends. "I knew he was hungry to turn around the program, and I was hungry to help him," Wade says.
Now he's in perfect position to take Marquette to new heights. In his mind's eye, in fact, he already has.
Burnout of the Worst Kind
Whatever adversity Greg White encounters in the rest of his coaching career, it's hoped that he'll never experience anything so harrowing as the 10-minute span on Oct. 12 when he didn't know whether his two children were dead or alive. White, Marshall's sixth-year coach, was about to have dinner with his wife, Donna, in Lexington, Ky., when his younger brother, Brad, called to report that Greg and Donna's town house in Charleston, W.Va., was on fire. Greg's parents were babysitting his six-year-old son, Hunter, and two-year-old daughter, Alexa, that night, and those excruciating minutes passed before they reached Greg's father, Harold, and learned the kids were safe. "My wife and I were sure we could handle anything after that," Greg, 42, says. "I still wasn't prepared to deal with what I walked up to later."
What he encountered was a pile of smoldering ash. All the Whites' possessions, including their two cars, were destroyed in the blaze, which began from unknown causes in a neighboring house. "It's like a death—the death of all our things," White says. "I lost my baby pictures, my wedding pictures, all my basketball memorabilia in the basement. I remember standing there thinking, Where do I go from here?"