By Danny Priest
In the summer of 2016, Zaire Wade’s name went viral for the first time. The son of Future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade played in a Miami Pro League with the likes of NBA studs including Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, and Tim Hardaway Jr.
A video of the then-16-year-old Wade nailing a crossover, step-back jumper over Hardaway Jr. went viral on the internet, creating quite a buzz in the basketball universe.
It’s not every day that a 16-year-old son of a future Hall of Famer puts a wicked move like the one Zaire did on a current starter in the NBA.
Articles about the play were written on SB Nation and USA Today, and the video with highlights of the play and the game itself garnered over three million views on YouTube.
Fast forward to today, and most every true basketball fan knows who Zaire Wade is. He’s a part of perhaps the greatest and most widely recognized high school basketball team ever assembled with the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers.
Wade is playing alongside Ziaire Williams (No. 5 ESPN Top 100 Class of 2020), B.J. Boston (No. 12 ESPN Top 100 Class of 2020, committed to Kentucky), and Terren Frank (No. 79 ESPN Top 100 Class of 2020, committed to TCU), among other names, including Bronny James Jr., son of one of the greatest to ever play the game, LeBron James.
Compared to his teammates, Wade is a lesser recruit. He currently holds offers from four Division I programs: DePaul, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Toledo. The six-foot-three, 175-pound senior has a 3-star scout grade and a rating of 78/100 according to ESPN.
Wade’s position is similar to that of his own father’s. Despite a prolific high school career, Dwyane Wade was lightly recruited, and eventually settled on attending Marquette University (one of his three offers), where he eventually blossomed into the star he would become for his career.
“I think I started paying attention to it when I had to, you know when basketball started becoming not nothing. When I came to Sierra Canyon playing with these guys, playing against the top talent, I think it just exposed my game,” Zaire said of his recruiting ranking.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve been a little underrated, but I never got to play at a high level like this. So, I mean, already my recruitment is going up, the rankings or whatever [have] gone up, [since I’ve] been here. But yeah, you know, I pay attention to it, but I don’t let it break me down or anything like that, but I see the stuff, I see the articles,” he added.
For Wade, he’s not going to lose sleep over not being a top recruit in his class. A big part of his decision to come to Sierra Canyon was to raise his profile and get out from under his father’s shadow as he gets ready to move to the next level.
“Yeah, I’ve had a lot of interviews and that’s pretty much been the main focus,” Wade said of often getting compared to his father.
“That’s part of the reason why I came to Sierra because it’s a platform I can use to make a name for myself on and off the court.”
It can be difficult to refrain from constantly comparing Zaire to his father, but the younger Wade has always tried to view his name as nothing out of the norm.
“I really didn’t think of my name as anything except my name, but obviously everybody else has their own opinion, so I guess it puts a target on my back in a good way and in a bad way, but I just got to be ready for whichever way that is,” Zaire said. “Some games there might be some people coming after me, trying to play me extra hard or whatever because of who I am, so you got to be ready for it.”
For Wade, the most he can do moving forward is just put his head down and continue to work. Sierra Canyon will be in the spotlight for the duration of the season, and with that, he has a chance to increase his recruiting standing.
Of course, advice from Dwyane helps too.
“He just told me that the right college, whatever college I end up going to, they [are going to] find me. So, don’t stress about it, don’t worry about it. He only had, I think it was three offers, and I mean you see where he ended up,” Zaire said.
“So he says that the offers at the end of the day, it really doesn’t mean too much. Obviously, you want people to see your work, you want them to recognize it, and I’ll be blessed to have any DI offers or any offers, but he just tells me to keep working and the offers are going to come.”
For Zaire, he has other interests he wants to pursue off the court, too. That includes entrepreneurship and branding. Wherever it is that he does end up, he’s going to put his focus on standing out, rather than fitting in.
“Whatever happens in life I can always bet on me, so there’s always going to be people expecting me to be this person, but if I don’t end up what they expect me to be, he [Dwyane] always just tells me to be myself because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what they think,” Zaire said.
“I can be successful in a lot of different ways. Basketball is one of them, but there’s more to life than basketball. So that’s the big thing: it’s bigger than basketball.”
The younger Wade’s legacy is just beginning to be written, but this new chapter with Sierra Canyon is as much about standing out as anything else.
“I think I’m definitely the underdog, but I really don’t like to talk about it too much,” Zaire said. “I’m just here to play and I think this will be my first year I can show everybody what I have as an underdog, so I’m just ready to get back out there and continue to show.”
Photos Courtesy of Gabby Guerard and Joe Arruda