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Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2003

Pitt poses tough test for Wade, Marquette

March 27, 2003

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— Dwyane Wade's ability to focus might be the best of all his attributes.

Marquette's star junior sat out his first season because he didn't qualify academically. Last February he became a father and now he's a husband. His first name even gets misspelled all the time.

And Wade, who averages 21.3 points per game, always is the top target of opposing defenses.

The biggest challenge of his college career?

"None, really," Wade said. "I don't think I've really faced any. I'm still in college right now, the best thing that can happen to you. I'm just playing basketball, having fun."

Wade, a strong, quick guard with excellent shooting range, could be bound for the NBA after this season. He faces one of his toughest tasks of the season tonight, when the third-seeded Golden Eagles play No. 2 Pittsburgh in a Midwest Regional semifinal at the Metrodome.

The Panthers are all about defense, allowing a paltry 58.7 points per game, which ranks sixth in the nation.

Guard Julius Page is Pitt's defensive stopper, and he'll probably guard Wade.

"They're a good team," Page said. "They're physical. They play defense, somewhat like us. If you want to play defense you've got to have the will. You can teach some of the mentals, but as individuals you've got to just want it."

The winner will play Saturday against either Wisconsin or Kentucky for a spot in the Final Four.

The Eagles haven't been to a regional final since winning their only national title in 1977, but Wade has helped return Marquette (25-5) to prominence in his second season.

All while changing diapers on the side.

"I think he has to be focused to be a good father, a good husband and a good student," coach Tom Crean said. "He really knows how to balance his time. He's a very calm person. He thinks things through. I think it's done nothing but help him."

His teammates seem to be just as impressed with the way he handles himself as they are with his game.

"That made him way more mature," forward Robert Jackson said. "He takes on everything. He's got to do his work back home, making sure they're right. Then he comes to practice, and he's always focused. That's what makes him the great player he is. He's able to put all that aside and still play at a high level of basketball.

"He's not easily distracted."

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