Following big footsteps

Zaire Wade, left, and Shaqir O’Neal, right, have known each other since their world-famous fathers, Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, played together with the Miami Heat.

PHOENIX – The sons of two NBA legends are among the high school standouts who attended an NCAA Basketball Academy at Grand Canyon University.

Among the 2,400 players participating in last week’s first NCAA academy, two names jump out: Zaire Wade and Shaqir O’Neal.

Both players were placed in the west region of the academy, hosted by GCU, and hope to stand out for their own accomplishments.

“I’m looking to make my own name,” Zaire Wade said. “My dad, he’s the type of guy who wants me to make a name for myself. He will help me but he wants me to figure it out, be a man yourself.”

Zaire’s dad, Dwyane Wade, is regarded as one of the best all-around players in NBA history. Zaire hopes to stand out at the point guard position.

“My whole life I’ve been a playmaker,” Zaire said. “People used to tell me I don’t shoot enough so now I have just kind of found a balance, knocking down shots and getting my guys involved, that’s what I’m doing.”

Shaqir’s dad, Shaquille O’Neal, is known as one of the most freakish big men the NBA game has ever seen. Although Shaqir may not reach his dad’s height – Shaqir is 6-feet-4 versus his father’s 7-1 – he knows what he has to do to be a special player.

“I had to do a lot more (ball) handle training,” Shaqir said. “My dad made sure I knew handles right because he knew I wasn’t going to be as tall as him. I’m not done growing, but since I was young he has helped me do handling drills.”

Shaqir understands the pressure to be successful due to his last name but he welcomes the challenge.

“It’s a lot of pressure but pressure makes diamonds,” Shaqir said.

He compares his game to Golden State Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson.

“I say I’m really a good shooter and I have handles, like sneaky handles,” Shaqir said. “I can get to the basket easy and I can finish.”

The two sons have known each other since the days their dads played for the Miami Heat and brought home the franchise’s first NBA title in 2006.

Now they are roommates in the GCU dorms as they experience the new academy.

“He’s my roommate right now, that’s my guy,” Zaire said. “Shaqir, another NBA son, me and him have the same mindset to make a name for ourselves.”

Shaqir said he thought he would only know one person at the camp and it happened to be Zaire.

“I was happy because that’s my guy. We grew up together and played together as kids and it’s fun competing against him.”

The two competed against each other Wednesday night as coaches from all college levels stayed around the court to watch the two sons trade baskets. At the end though, it was Zaire’s team that took the bragging rights back to the dorms and for the rest of the summer.

Outside of playing games and taking in drills, the academy focuses on academics and what student-athletes need to prepare for when they are in college.

“We had some life skills talks earlier today and they had some good things to say,” Zaire said. “Teaching us how to use social media, not mess up your career. Just life skills, academics, how important that is to a student-athlete and things of that nature.”

Shaqir believes he is well-suited for the next level. He’s ready for the challenge, he said, and following in his father’s footsteps.

“They just told me to get prepared for the next level,” Shaqir said. “It’s very hard being a student-athlete. … Today we had classes on showing us stuff we can do and life of a student-athlete, showing us a glimpse of life of a college basketball player. It’s not for everybody but I feel like it’s for me.”

Zaire is heading into his senior season to play at Sierra Canyon in Chatsworth, California, after moving to the Los Angeles area from Miami. He has received offers from schools including Nebraska (Big Ten), DePaul (Big East), Rhode Island (Atlantic-10) and Toledo (MAC). He has said he doesn’t plan to sign in November and is open to going to any school in the nation.

For Shaqir, the rising junior will be returning to Crossroads and look to not only improve his ranking by recruiting services but bring home a state title.

“I wanna be the No. 1 player (overall) or at least ranked Top 10,” Shaqir said. “I want to have a lot of offers to my dream schools.”

A few of Shaqir’s dream schools include LSU and UCLA, places that have ties to the O’Neal household with Shaq being a former Tigers player and older brother Shareef settling on Westwood after having initially committing to Arizona.

To end their summers, the two sons will look forward to playing their dads one-on-one and getting the best of their legendary NBA fathers.

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