Fantasy camp gives Wade chance to reflect

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Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade carries an armload of basketballs during the third annual Dwyane Wade Fantasy Basketball Camp, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, in Hollywood, Fla. About this time ten years ago, Wade had a car that was worth $700 and needed $900 in repairs. These days he’s hosting fantasy camps and winning NBA titles. AP

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Tom Crean still cannot forget the vehicle that Dwyane Wade was driving a decade ago.

It was Wade’s final season at Marquette, where Crean was coaching at the time. Wade had moved off-campus after getting married and having his first son. And his vehicle got broken into three times during that Final Four season. Making it road-worthy again would have cost $900. The car was only worth $700 at the time.

The repairs never got made.

Wade waited until after the semester to get that new car, a blue Cadillac Escalade.

”The moral to the story is, the guy never got away from what his priorities were,” said Crean, now the coach at Indiana but still a close mentor to Wade. ”… It would have been so easy for him to leave school and get the things he needed. He could have gotten away from his academics because he was leaving for the NBA.”

Fast forward to Friday, when Wade’s third annual fantasy camp was getting going in earnest at a posh hotel in South Florida, with a slew of Escalades parked in a long line just outside the front doors. The 10th anniversary of Wade signing his first contract with the Miami Heat – a $7 million, three-year deal – is Monday, and the now three-time NBA champion still cannot believe how much his world has changed over this last decade.

”I remember just staring at my first check for a whole day,” Wade said. ”It was more than I think my father made in like five years, combined.”

It would have been impossible to imagine at the time, but nowadays, deep-pocketed guys think nothing of spending $10,500 to be like Wade for a long weekend. They get his Li Ning sneakers, plenty of gear, and the experience of playing alongside celebrities like comic Kevin Hart and for some of Wade’s closest allies – including Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, his college coach in Crean, his longtime trainer Tim Grover and his high school coach Jack Fitzgerald.

”This is one of the things I look forward to in the summer,” Wade said. ”I’ve been excited about this camp. I like this camp. I’ve been like, ‘Ah, I can’t wait for this camp.’ I really enjoy it. I enjoy being around these guys.”

In some respects, the camp serves as the end of Wade’s summer.

The kids are heading back to school, and while there’s still a few fun things left before the Heat convene late next month to start the quest of winning a third straight NBA title – Wade’s brother, as well as teammates Udonis Haslem and LeBron James are all getting married in the coming weeks, for example – he’s starting to get into basketball mode again.

Wade took several weeks off to rest after the NBA Finals, after fighting bone bruises in his knee for about three months. He’s starting to feel better now, and did his first real workout of the offseason on Thursday night.

And on Friday, he vowed to be ready for training camp.

”I’ll be coming in prepared and ready, but I won’t be ready for opening night,” Wade said. ”I’ll be ready for opening night when opening night gets here. I have a good amount of time.”

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