So, with mid-sized basketball expectations but high academic and social ones—Marquette had never accepted a partial qualifier before—Wade headed to Milwaukee for a long freshman year. “Once the first game came and I didn’t dress, I really got down on myself,” says Wade, who practiced with the team but had to sit on the bench in street clothes for home games and couldn’t travel. “When my team started losing—they were a .500 team that year—I’d say to myself that if I was able to play this wouldn’t have happened. But it just made me work harder and want to play even more. I just couldn’t wait to get into this scene and explode.”

The time off helped Wade get on top of things academically and, not wanting to risk injury by playing campus pick-up games, he worked alone. “I played by myself like I’d been doing all my life,” he says. “I like to be in the gym working on different stuff by myself—just me and nobody else. That’s when I get a lot done. I’m the type of player who goes off the dribble, and that’s when I make up moves or try to imitate moves I’ve seen. For a real, real workout, I’ll bring in chairs so I can come off them and do different things. But when I’m there trying to work on certain parts of my game—dribbling or trying to get comfortable with a certain shot, it’s just me and the ball.

“I think that work has been the key for me,” he adds. “Just like they say shooting will become easy if you just keep working at it, well, I love the dribble game—that brings excitement to the game. I mean, shooting is a lost art, but nobody wants to see nobody shoot all day. You want to see somebody break somebody off the dribble. That’s today’s game, and that’s what I try to do.”

Hearing Dwyane talk about his workouts is illuminating for anyone who watched him light up Conference-USA (not to mention the rest of the USA) the last two years. As one NBA scout, under condition of anonymity, raved, “Wade’s ability to slice is at another level, and I think he’ll be even better in the pro game. He gets in the lane so easily and is so fucking explosive. Book him as a 20-plus scorer in the NBA.” Hearing this description, Wade laughs and seems a bit embarrassed. But the humility with which he conducts himself should not be mistaken for a lack of confidence. “That guy sounds like

my guardian angel, but seriously, to hear stuff like that just gives me a lot of confidence to work harder and get even better. It lets me know that the hard work is paying off,” Wade says. “One thing Coach told me is that I’m the type of player that does a lot of

things good, and that’s rare. I don’t do one thing great, and I don’t really do nothing bad. I do everything good. Of course, I want my shooting to get better, but I know I can shoot. It’s just a matter of what the defense and the game give me. I’m not going to settle for the outside shot. I really feel that settling [for a J] is showing weakness, and that taking it strong is showing your mentality.

“And with other parts of the game, I look at a guy like Gilbert Arenas, who transferred from the 2 to mostly the 1,” he continues. “If I have to do that, I’ll do it. A lot of people said he’s too small, or he’s this or that. But basketball is basketball. You got a guy like Earl Boykins, oh my, it’s unbelievable that he does the things he do and he’s not fazed at all. I think it’s your heart that measures you. Like, I don’t worry about if I was to have to stick a Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady. It’s fine. It’s a challenge that I’ll be ready for. And if I have to then stick a point guard the next night, so what?”

Regarding that last part, it’s worth noting that on top of Dwyane’s countless offensive highlights (capped by the and-one bang during his triple-double dismantling of Kentucky in this year’s Elite 8), he was the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in ’02-03. Like a hoop version of Rosario Dawson, this guy is the entire package.

With the interview, photo shoot, lunch and some meetings wrapped, it’s time to face the press and put an end to the questions. Sitting at a podium inside the student union, flanked by his fam—mother-in-law, sister, wife and son—Crean and the Marquette athletic director, Dwyane pushes a mic in front of himself and begins. “The three years at Marquette have been unbelievable. The fan support has been unbelievable. I’m saying this with courage and confidence, everything that I can think of, and I know I have the backing of all my teammates, my coaches, my family, everyone in this room…I’m going to take my game to the NBA and see what the future holds.”

Continuing, he says, “I want to thank my teammates, I want to thank God, my wife, my son, my coach, for being supportive in everything I’ve done. I want to thank the Marquette community for giving Dwyane Wade the opportunity to be here as a partial qualifier and for treating me the way I feel any human being should be treated.”

As the entire room applauds warmly, the treatment Wade says he’s received makes perfect sense. With his eye-popping style of play on the court and heart-pleasing lifestyle off it, he’s clearly earned it.